Western Oregon holds off women’s basketball, 67-61

Photo by Paul McCarthy
Photo by Paul McCarthy

Jamie Foland

Western Oregon built a sizeable lead to close the first half and was able to fend off Alaska to pick up a 67-61 Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball victory Saturday night at New PE Building.

Melissa Fowler poured in a game-high 21 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists while Lorrie Clifford ha 16 points. Mariah Durian also contributed 11 points and eight boards.

The Wolves (7-12, 2-7 GNAC) shot 34 percent (23-67) for the game and nearly 71 percent (17-24) from the charity stripe but really capitalized on Alaska’s 19 turnovers, which they turned into 24 points. WOU outscored Alaska 36-24 in the paint and 24-8 off giveaways.

Senior guard Taylor Altenburg (Elko, Nev./Criminal justice) led the Nanooks (2-15, 0-9) in scoring with 14 points, while also producing eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Junior forward Samantha Thornton (Bremerton, Wash./Biology) posted her first double-double with career-highs of 13 points and 11 rebounds. She also made a pair of blocks in the defeat.

“Sam stepped up big getting the double-double,” head coach Cody Burgess-Bench said. “Brianna Kirk (8 pts., 6 reb.) had a great effort off the bench as well.”

Alaska shot 32 percent (19-60) from the floor and made only two three pointers to finish 12 percent (2-17) from beyond the arc. They did much better at the free throw line, cashing in on 75 percent (21-28) of their attempts. Alaska also had a surprising advantage on the glass, by a 52-44 count, including 21-19 on the offensive end.

The game remained close for much of the first half, but leading 21-20, Western Oregon went on a 17-5 run over the final 3:58 to claim a 38-25 halftime lead.

After the Wolves extended the lead to 15, the Nanooks began to chip away at the deficit. Down 51-37, a Jacqueline Bartleson (Santa Fe, N.M./Elementary education) layup with 10:05 to go sparked 9-0 run to bring Alaska to within 51-46 with 8:14 to go. WOU got the advantage back up to 10 twice inside the final five minutes and the Nanooks couldn’t muster enough offense to close the gap, never coming closer than six points four times.

“It was great to see the team rally after halftime,” Burgess-Bench said. “They got offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line. We inched our way back and didn’t quit.”

Alaska continues its long road trip next week with a pair of nationally-ranked foes. On Thursday, the Nanooks face Western Washington, followed by a Saturday meeting with Simon Fraser. Both games are scheduled to start at 4:15 p.m. (AKST).