Men’s basketball drops 79-66 decision at No. 2 Western Washington

Jamie Foland

Second-ranked Western Washington had four score in double figures and shot well over 50 percent to pick up a 79-66 Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball win against Alaska Saturday night at Carver Gymnasium.

The Vikings (18-0, 9-0 GNAC) extended their win streak to 24 games, which is the most ever in program history while the Nanooks (10-7, 5-4 GNAC) dropped their third straight contest heading into the halfway point of conference play.

“It was quite a challenge,” head coach Mick Durham said. I really thought we competed and held our own. Western is so talented offensively and they hurt us on the boards with second attempts, which you can’t give them but we couldn’t get the stop or the big hoop. We learned a lot about ourselves and we showed we can compete.”

Paul Jones recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds while John Allen matched Jones with a game-best 18 points. Austin Bragg contributed 15 points and nine boards while Richard Woodworth added 12 points.

“Paul in particular did a nice job with his body, he’s stronger than last year and is tough with his mid-range game even to the point where we defended him on the three,” Durham said. “He’s very talented offensively with what he can do.”

Durham continued, “John Allen is probably the MVP of the GNAC right now and he continues to develop his game and uses the pick and roll to spread you out. We really didn’t slow him down much but we held Western under its average as a team. They normally beat teams by 20 points but somebody has to play them awfully well to beat them.”

WWU shot 56 percent (33-59) for the game and held a 36-23 rebounding advantage. The Vikings outscored the Nanooks 40-30 in the paint and 16-4 in transition.

Alaska was led by junior guard Pat Voeut (Bellingham, Wash./Communication), who scored a team-best 17 points in his hometown. Senior guard Dominique Brinson (Juneau, Alaska/Accounting) had 13 points after knocking down three treys while junior forwards Stefan Tica (Belgrade, Serbia/Business and Finance) and Dallen Bills (Inkom, Idaho/Psychology) had 11 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.

“I thought we had good guard play,” Durham said. “Pat going back home had a big second half to keep us close and Dom bounced back from his poor shooting night on Thursday. I thought Dallen gave us a nice lift inside and that was probably his best game.”

The Nanooks shot 42 percent (24-57) from the floor and struggled from outside, converting on 27 percent (6-22) of their three-point attempts. They did, however, make 86 percent (12-14) of their free throws.

Both teams kept it tight early but with WWU leading 10-9, it reeled off six in a row to grab a 16-9 advantage with 12:31 to go in the first. The Nanooks didn’t let the game get out of hand and trailing 21-12, a pair of Tica three pointers to go with two Voeut free throws in just 75 seconds brought them to within 21-20 with 9:38 left. Western ended the stanza with nine of 13 points in the final 2:57 to take a 40-33 lead into halftime.

The Vikings opened the second on a 10-2 run to take a 50-35 lead, due in large part to the inside game as six of the 10 came on layups. Alaska answered with an 11-1 surge in 1:53 to climb to within five at 51-46 with 13 minutes left. Over the next seven minutes the teams went bucket-for-bucket for much of that span but leading 62-56, a Jones jumper with 5:15 to go sparked a 7-1 run to give the hosts a 69-57 advantage with 4:07 to go. Alaska never got closer than nine the rest of the way.

The Nanooks return home next week to host Northwest Nazarene Thursday and Central Washington Saturday. Both games are set for 7 p.m. starts at the Patty Center.