Late heroics lift men’s basketball to 61-60 win over NNU

Photo by Paul McCarthy
Photo by Paul McCarthy

Jamie Foland

Fairbanks, Alaska – Junior guard Ronnie Baker (Vallejo, Calif./Communication) drained two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining and Alaska made a key defensive stop in the closing moments to grind out a 61-60 victory against Northwest Nazarene in Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball Thursday night at the Patty Center.

The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Nanooks (11-7, 6-4 GNAC) as they swept the season series versus the Crusaders (9-9, 3-7 GNAC) for the first time since the 2003-04 season. NNU’s losing streak extended to five in a row with the defeat.

NNU led 56-54 but with 49 seconds remaining, junior forward Andrew Kelly (Gilbert, Ariz./Justice Studies, Law & Society) hit a jumper in the paint to tie it up. NNU answered asKenny Jones nailed a jumper from inside the three-point line with only 37 ticks to go to give the lead back to the Crusaders at 58-56.

On the ensuing possession, junior guard Pat Voeut (Bellingham, Wash./Communication) dished the ball off to junior forward Stefan Tica (Belgrade, Serbia/Business and Finance), who drained his only three of the game from the left wing to give Alaska a 59-58 advantage with 28 seconds to go.

At the other end, Jonathan Hawkins missed a shot but Kevin Rima got the offensive rebound and his jumper gave Nazarene a 60-59 lead with 11 seconds remaining. The Nanooks didn’t use a timeout and instead rushed up the floor where Baker was fouled with only 4.7 to go.

After he made both from the charity stripe, Alaska had two fouls to give and used one of them with only half a second left. After a failed attempt to inbound the ball, NNU tried to float it into the paint with 0.2 to go and the ball bounced off a Nanook to run out the clock.

Junior center Sergej Pucar (Belgrade, Serbia/Business administration) led Alaska with 12 points and eight rebounds while Baker had 10 points and four boards, three coming on the offensive glass. Kelly contributed eight points and a game-best nine rebounds (four offensive) while three others combined 22 points. Voeut also tied a season-best with eight assists.

Alaska shot just 25 percent (8-32) in the first half but converted on 48 percent (15-31) of its shots in the second to finish 37 percent (23-63) for the contest. It forced NNU into 18 turnovers, 10 of which came by steals. The Nanooks held an 18-5 advantage in the assist department and saw a 22-point production night from their reserves.

Northwest Nazarene was paced by Grayson Moore, who scored a game-high 20 points to go with six rebounds and two blocks. Hawkins had 14 points and Jones had 12 points and three assists while Rima, a Hutchison High School graduate, contributed nine points, eight rebounds and a GNAC season-high six blocks.

The Crusaders shot 45 percent (24-53), including 54 percent (14-26) in the second half but made just four threes, to the Nanooks’ seven. They did control the glass by a 38-32 margin but the ‘Nooks had 13 offensive boards, to NNU’s 10.

The Nanooks return to the court Saturday night at 7 p.m. against Central Washington. The Wildcats (11-7, 5-5 GNAC) fell 98-69 to Alaska Anchorage earlier Thursday. The game will be streamed live on Stretch Internet and can be heard on KCBF 820 AM in Fairbanks.