Four non-conference home games, a trip to Hawaii and the grueling 18-game Great Northwest Athletic Conference slate make up the 2013-14 regular season schedule for the Alaska women’s basketball team.
“It’s really important we get as many games under our belt before conference play,” head coach Cody Burgess-Bench said. “We want to play West Region games, so that’s typically how we operate. I like to play at home [in non-conference]. We want to make sure we’re comfortable on the home court.”
The Nanooks, who finished 5-21 a year ago with a 3-15 record in GNAC play, will open the season Nov. 8 at the Patty Center against Western New Mexico. A week later, the squad will trek over to the tropics for a four-game set in Hawaii, as it will take on Pacific West Conference foes BYU-Hawaii, Chaminade as well as a pair of games back-to-back against Hawaii-Hilo.
“Getting to play in Hawaii is a matter of the competition in the PacWest and making sure we can compete with teams in the other conferences so we can come back and be ready in our own,” Burgess-Bench said.
Following a nine-day break, the ‘Nooks return home to Fairbanks to host the 2013 North Star Invitational, featuring six games over three days the week of Thanksgiving. As announced back in March, joining Alaska in this year’s field is Dominican (Calif.), Lees-McRae (N.C.) and Wayne State College (Neb.).
“We play eight games and every one of those will determine where we’re at come first week of December when we start conference play,” Burgess-Bench said. “It’s important that on the road trip and in our tournament that we’re focused and ready and we prepare ourselves.”
GNAC play begins Dec. 5 and 7 as the Nanooks take on Seattle Pacific and Montana State Billings at the Patty Center. Those two league games will mark the final action for the 2013 calendar year and the Nanooks will have a 26-day break from live action until conference play resumes in 2014.
“The break is important because we can evaluate how we performed over the first 10 games,” Burgess-Bench said. “If there’s something we need to make changes to we have time to do that. The break the players receive won’t be the entire four weeks. They’ll get about 10 days over the holidays so it won’t be any different than normal. We just won’t compete in a live game.”
The players will be back on the hardwood Jan. 2 and 4 when they have their first road games in a month in a half at Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene. The first of two meetings between Alaska and Alaska Anchorage will take place Jan. 18 at the Patty Center. Following the in-state clash, the Nanooks face last year’s top-two teams in Simon Fraser (Jan. 23) and Western Washington (Jan. 25) on the road to complete the first half of the GNAC schedule.
Other key matchups include at UAA on Feb. 15, WWU at home on Feb. 20 and SFU for Senior Day on Feb.
Dates for the 2014 GNAC Women’s Basketball Championship have yet to be released as well as the site for the annual six-team, single-elimination tournament to decide the conference’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA West Region Championship.
“The good thing is that all the other teams deal with the same thing we do,” Burgess-Bench said of the GNAC schedule. “They’re preparing and we’re preparing, which makes it very competitive where no team can take a night off. It’s a good representation for us in the Northwest. With the new players coming in and how we finished last season, we should be able to start off pretty well.”