Alaska had four players score in double figures and shot 62 percent in the second half to rally from 14 points down for an 80-77 Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball victory against Western Oregon Thursday night at the New P.E. Building.
The Nanooks (12-8, 7-5 GNAC) hit 18 of 29 shots in the second half, including a stellar 73 percent (8-11) from beyond the arc as they swept the season series against the Wolves (9-10, 4-7 GNAC) for the fourth time in conference history.
“It was great to see and have a game like that shooting 62 percent after shooting in the 20’s last week,” head coach Mick Durham said. “I’m proud of the guys. We hung in there with our defense and once we took the lead, you could tell our guys had been there before and knew how to win it.”
Senior guard Dominique Brinson (Juneau, Alaska/Accounting) scored a game-high 17 points after draining five of 10 three-point attempts. Junior center Sergej Pucar (Belgrade, Serbia/Business administration) had 15 points as he connected on three of his five tries from outside. Junior guard Pat Voeut (Bellingham, Wash./Communication) contributed 13 points and a game-best four assists while junior guard Ronnie Baker (Vallejo, Calif./Communication) added 11 points.
The Nanooks finished the game 53 percent (30-57) from the floor and 48 percent (10-21) from three-point range. They also connected on 77 percent (10-13) of their free throw attempts, outscored WOU 8-4 on the fast break and had 16 assists to the hosts nine.
The Wolves were paced by Rodney Webster, who tied Brinson for a game-best 17 points. Andy Avgi had 13 points and six boards while Kolton Nelson turned in an 11-point, five-rebound evening. WOU shot 53 percent (29-55) as well and hit half of its three-point shots (8-16) while edging Alaska 29-26 on the glass.
The Wolves opened the game with six of the game’s first seven points and later led 15-6 with 13:17 to go in the half. Up 17-11, a James Gehring layup sparked an 8-0 run, capped off by a three pointer by Jordan Wiley, that put the home team ahead 25-11 with 7:28 left. WOU led by the same margin with under four minutes remaining but the Nanooks finished the frame strong, with a 10-2 surge to trim the deficit to 37-31 at the break.
“Cutting it six at half was huge,” Durham said “We were on the brink of disaster in the first half and then we spread the floor a little bit more.”
The game went back-and-forth for much of the early portion of the second half, but with Western Oregon up 63-53 with 11 minutes left, a back-door cut layup by freshman guard Cody Pierson (Twin Bridges, Mont./General studies) and back-to-back treys by Brinson and Pucar brought Alaska to within two at 63-61 with 9:40 to go.
WOU got the advantage back to five at 68-63, but two Brinson triples and three free throws by Voeut gave Alaska its first lead of the game at 72-71 with 4:44 to go. Brinson added on with another three and junior forward Andrew Kelly (Gilbert, Ariz./Justice) scored two of his nine points to give the ‘Nooks a 77-71 advantage with three minutes remaining.
In the final minutes, Alaska led by four at 79-75, but Nelson converted a layup with 47 ticks left to cut the lead in half. On the ensuing possession, Alaska came up empty but Kelly, who brought down a game-high nine rebounds, came up with a steal as only four seconds remained and was immediately fouled. He made one of two free throws and WOU’s three-point try at the buzzer for the tie was off the mark.
“We’re trying to be consistent and know how to win,” Durham said. “We’ve won some GNAC games this year and there are no freebies in this league, so it’s amazing how you win by 25 at home and have a battle on the road. We kind of stole one tonight although we did play very well in the second half.”
Alaska travels to Lacey, Wash., where it meets Saint Martin’s Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (AKST). The Saints (7-12, 3-8 GNAC) had a come-from-behind 60-52 win against Alaska Anchorage earlier Thursday.