Women’s basketball’s upset bid at No. 22 NNU comes up short, 88-81

Photo by Paul McCarthy
Photo by Paul McCarthy

Jamie Foland

Alaska had 22nd-ranked Northwest Nazarene on the ropes for a huge upset in Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball action but NNU used a 21-9 run over the final six minutes to rally for an 88-81 victory Thursday night at the Johnson Sports Center.

The Crusaders (18-3, 10-3 GNAC) won for the fourth straight time while the Nanooks (2-20, 0-14) came up empty on their attempt for a first conference win of the season.

Trailing 47-41 one minute into the second half, Alaska used a 14-4 run in just over four minutes to gain a 55-51 lead with 14:51 to go. The Crusaders tried to close the gap but the ‘Nooks always had an answer, leading by as many as six points twice.

The Nanooks led 72-67 but a Chelsie Luke jumper with six minutes on the clock began a run for the hosts as it scored 11 of 13, capped off by an old-fashioned three-point play by Luke with 3:30 left to put NNU up 78-74.

The Nanooks cut the deficit to one twice, including 82-81 with 1:02 to go on a pair of Samantha Thornton (Bremerton, Wash./Business administration) free throws, but the Crusaders went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 56 seconds while the Nanooks missed a pair of shots to try and force an overtime period.

Luke led all players with a game-best 23 points while Megan Hingston surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career with 18 points. Heather Adams contributed 15 points whileVeronika Skokankova added 13.

NNU shot was out shot by Alaska by nearly nine percent as the visitors finished the game with a 54.1 percent (33-61) success rate from the floor, its highest shooting percentage in over four years. Nazarene finished the game 45.5 percent (30-66) from the field and was excellent at the free throw line, connecting on 93 percent (25-27) of its attempts. It held a slim 34-32 advantage on the boards but had 11 offensive rebounds and forced 19 turnovers as NNU outscored Alaska 41-16 between those two categories.

The Nanooks had five players score in double figures, led by sophomore guard Benissa Bulaya (Sacramento, Calif./Business administration) and senior forward Jacqueline Lovato (Gunnison, Colo./Business administration), who each tallied 16 points. Sophomore guard Kelly Logue (Fair Oaks, Calif./Communication) had 11 points, six assists, three steals and a career-high three blocks while Thornton and senior guard Taylor Altenburg (Elko, Nev./Justice) scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Nanooks also drained 50 percent of their three point tries, making eight of 16 long-range shots, in a game which saw five ties and eight lead changes.

Alaska flies over to Ellensburg, Wash., for a Saturday 6 p.m. (AKST) meeting against Central Washington. The Wildcats fell 68-55 earlier Thursday to Alaska Anchorage.