Despite taking a 14-point lead in the first six and a half minutes, the Alaska men’s basketball team struggled from the field the last 30 minutes and Concordia-St. Paul rallied for a 65-60 victory on Saturday afternoon at the WWU Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic at Carver Gymnasium.
“We played a lot better than Friday but we couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” head coach Mick Durham said. “I thought we did a good job of defending them and they did a good job defending us. We had some pretty good looks but it’s frustrating that we couldn’t knock shots down.”
Isaiah Thomas and Terez VanPelt tied for a game-high 16 points apiece while Nick Mabbutt chipped in 10 points for the Golden Bears (1-2). Cole Olstad brought down 10 rebounds and Demitrius Martin dished out four assists.
The Nanooks (4-3) were paced by senior guard Dominique Brinson (Juneau, Alaska/Accounting) and junior forward Stefan Tica (Belgrade, Serbia/Business and Finance), who both scored 11 points after draining three treys apiece. Senior forward Zach Ngawaka (Keysborough, Australia/History) contributed 10 points and five boards while junior center Sergej Pucar (Belgrade, Serbia/Business administration) accrued a game- and career-high 14 rebounds. Junior guard Pat Voeut (Bellingham, Wash./Communications) also had eight points and four dimes.
CSPU shot 40.7-percent from the floor while Alaska struggled after its hot start at 35.8-percent. Concordia also converted on just shy of 42-percent (5-12 3PT) of its three-point attempts, while the ‘Nooks were 25-percent (7-28 3PT) from beyond the arc, including just one-for-10 in the final 20 minutes.
“They have some good guards that can really shoot it,” Durham said. “They’re one of the bigger team’s we’ve played. They played us man and showed a little zone in the first half but we were inconsistent shooting the three and shooting in general so it bit us tonight.”
The Golden Bears held the rebounding edge 42-32 and outscored the Nanooks 15-5 on second-chance opportunities in a game that saw three ties and six lead changes.
The Nanooks jumped out to an early 16-4 lead less than five minutes in and extended the advantage to 22-8 6:21 into the contest after hitting six-of-eight from three-point land. The Golden Bears, trailing 32-22 with over five minutes to go in the first, chipped away at the lead, scoring nine in a row, but Alaska took a 36-33 lead into the break.
Alaska held a slim 44-40 lead with 13:20 to play in the game but a trey by Thomas with 13 minutes on the clock scored a 9-2 run over 2:42 to give the Concordia-St. Paul a 49-46 advantage.
Teams went back-and-forth but with the Nanooks trailing 60-58, Olstad missed on a three-pointer with 1:02 to go but CSUP got the offensive rebound. Thirty seconds later, VanPelt converted an old-fashioned three-point play when he was fouled by Voeut to put the Golden Bears up 63-58 and put the game out of reach.
The Nanooks return home next week to open Great Northwest Athletic Conference play against seventh-ranked Seattle Pacific and Montana State-Billings.
“You want your non-conference schedule to prepare you for the GNAC and I felt the seven games are against teams that are in a lot of ways like GNAC teams,” Durham said. “We’re trying to learn from these games and hopefully we’ll put it to use next weekend when we open GNAC play.”