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Resilient Crusaders Earn Red Lion Team of the Week
The Crusaders moved into a tie for third place in the GNAC standings with two wins last week.
The Crusaders moved into a tie for third place in the GNAC standings with two wins last week.
Kevin Rima scored 47 points, twice rallying NNU from second half double-digit deficits.
Kevin Rima scored 47 points, twice rallying NNU from second half double-digit deficits.

Monday, January 19, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - Northwest Nazarene continued its strong month of January by picking up two come-from-behind victories last week, earning it the Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week.

Since the start of the New Year, the Crusaders (7-10 overall, 5-2 in GNAC) have gone 4-1 while moving into a tie for third place in the GNAC. Its only loss in that span was by single-digits to conference leader Western Oregon.

“We’ve been settling in mentally and executing better,” fourth-year head coach Dave Daniels said. “I think (NNU sports information director) Mike (Stetson) said it had been 39 days or something like that since our last home game, so it’s been nice playing in friendly confines.”

On Thursday, Northwest Nazarene, playing in their first home game since Dec. 6, battled the high-scoring offense of Simon Fraser. Putting up 56 points at the half, the Crusaders rallied from an 11-point deficit to take down the nation’s top scoring offense 107-103.

Of the eight Crusaders that scored, seven of them were in double figures being led by senior forward Kevin Rima’s 18. Rima recorded his 13th career double-double, taking in 12 rebounds on the night as well.

“It’s a combination of the team executing on offense and getting Rima the ball,” Daniels said of Rima’s scoring attack. “He’s playing with confidence and finding ways to finish well.”

Two days later, the Crusaders hosted a dangerous Western Washington team which had won two GNAC games the previous week including a 68-66 victory over then conference co-leader Seattle Pacific.

Northwest Nazarene found itself in another hole, trailing 12 with just over 14 minutes left to play. The Crusaders chipped away at the Vikings lead, going on a 20-8 run in just seven minutes to tie the game at 58. The Crusaders sealed the victory by continuing their strong second half, outscoring WWU 22-15, in route to an 80-73 win.

This is the first time in five seasons, and only the second time at home since the 2006-07 season, that Northwest Nazarene has beaten the Vikings.

“We’re in the process of trying to learn how to win,” Daniels said. ”The team believes in each other and we continue to do what we do. Guys have continued to rebound and defend well and finish plays.”

Rima, the GNAC Player of the Week, led the Crusaders once again Saturday by scoring 29 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Starters Erik Kinney and Alex Birketoft, who has played in only eight games this year, added 18 and 13 points respectively while combining for 14 rebounds.

“Having Alex Birketoft back has made a real difference,” Daniels said. “After missing the first semester, I think he’s averaging seven and a half rebounds, ranking second or third in the conference once he’s qualified for enough games.”

Last week NNU shot 56 percent from the floor while also making 52 percent of its shots from behind the arc. Senior Matyas Hering was almost perfect from the three-point line, making five of his six shots.

Northwest Nazarene and its three-game win streak will travel to Alaska on Thursday and Alaska Anchorage Saturday for its last road trip until mid-February. 

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