Fairbanks, Alaska – Great Northwest Athletic Conference leading scorer Mark McLaughlin scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as Central Washington held Alaska to a season-low shooting percentage en route to a 71-54 men’s basketball victory Saturday night at the Patty Center.
The Wildcats (12-7, 6-5 GNAC) outscored the Nanooks (11-8, 6-5 GNAC) 43-27 over the final 20 minutes and held the hosts to their worst shooting percentage of the season at 28 percent (16-57).
Along with McLaughlin’s 24-point performance, Central also saw good production off the bench from Nate Walker and Kevin Davis. Walker posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Davis came in to score six points while making six blocks, tying the GNAC season high. Chris Holmes also contributed nine points and eight boards in the win.
Central shot 44 percent (26-59) for the game, including a solid 54 percent (15-28) in the second half. The teams tied the rebounding war at 41-41, though the Nanooks out-rebounded the ‘Cats 20-15 on the offensive glass. The Wildcats forced the ‘Nooks into 19 turnovers, which they turned into 22 points at the other end.
Junior guard Ronnie Baker (Vallejo, Calif./Communication) led the Nanooks with 10 points and junior forward Andrew Kelly (Gilbert, Ariz./Justice Studies, Law & Society) had seven points and a game- and career-high 12 rebounds while junior guard Pat Voeut (Bellingham, Wash./Communication) added eight points, a career-high seven rebounds and six assists.
Both teams struggled in the first half as the stanza saw four ties and four lead changes in the opening 20. Central shot just 36 percent (11-31) and Alaska was worse at 28 percent (8-29) but a jumper inside the final minute of the half by the Wildcats gave the visitors a 28-27 halftime lead.
Leading 30-29, CWU used a 6-0 run in 2:21 to extend the advantage to 36-29 with 16:21 to play. The Nanooks used points off turnovers to get back in it and trailing 40-31, it used back-to-back fast-break layups following a pair of free throws to close the gap to 40-37 with 13 minutes to go. Out of the timeout, Central answered with 11 in a row in just over two minutes to go up 51-37 with just under 11 remaining. Alaska never got closer than nine as CWU led by as many as 20 late.
The Nanooks hit the road next week for a pair of GNAC games as they face Western Oregon Thursday, followed up by Saint Martin’s on Saturday. Both games are scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. (AKST).