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Pack Of Wolves On Top To Begin GNAC's Second Half
Western Oregon's Julian Nichols enters the week ranked fourth in Division II with a 3.67 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Western Oregon's Julian Nichols enters the week ranked fourth in Division II with a 3.67 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

UNDEFEATED NO MORE: Thursday’s contest between Alaska Anchorage and Western Oregon was all that was expected of a contest between the top two teams in the conference. In the end, it was the Wolves that handed the Seawolves their first GNAC loss of the season.

Western Oregon led by as much as 14 points in the first half and limited Alaska Anchorage to 28.6 shooting from the field to take a 33-23 halftime lead. The Seawolves charged back hard in the second half, tying the game at 57-57 with 7:01 left and taking a 60-57 lead on Sekou Wiggs’ lay-in with 6:08 to go. Western Oregon had the last surge, though, outscoring UAA 19-6 over the final six minutes to secure the 76-66 victory.

Andy Avgi earned his third GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week based in part of his stellar performance on Thursday. Avgi had a game-high 31 points on 13 of 21 from the field with three assists and four blocks. Wiggs, meanwhile, had one of the best single half performances in the conference this season. After scoring just four points from the free throw line and going 0 for 5 from the field in the first half, Wiggs went off for 20 points in the second half on 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from three-point range. He finished the night with 26 points on 8 of 18 from the field and 6 of 6 from the free throw line.

The two teams enter the week tied for first in the GNAC standings with 9-1 records. Western Oregon is 16-2 overall and ended the first half of the GNAC schedule with a 64-59 home victory over Alaska on Saturday. Avgi led WOU in that game with 24 points, with all of five field goals coming from beyond the arc. Alaska Anchorage kept pace with a 90-71 win on Saturday at Concordia, led by Wiggs’ 24 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. The Seawolves are 16-5 overall.

GETTIN' WIGGSY WITH IT: Alaska Anchorage junior transfer Sekou Wiggs has been nothing less than an impact player for the Seawolves, generating an incredible amount of scoring numbers.

Wiggs leads the GNAC and is 11th in Division II in scoring, averaging 24.1 points per game, but has also failed to duck under 20 points at all this season. Wiggs has scored 20 or more points in all 21 games this season, the longest such streak in Division II since the 2011-12 season. The streak is also unofficially the longest such streak in GNAC history (according to data researched by the Alaska Anchorage sports information office). Wiggs’ lowest point total this season was 20 points in his UAA debut vs. Upper Iowa at the D2CCA Classic on Oct. 30.
Wiggs also has four 30-plus point games this season, topped by a 34-point performance against Cal Baptist on Oct. 31.

While Wiggs is shooting 45 percent from the field and leading Division II with 506 total points, he is the most damaging from the free throw line. The junior is shooting 76.9 percent from the chrity stripe and has five games with 10 or more made free throws. Wiggs ranks third in Division II in both free throws made (153) and free throws attempted (199).

ADD FREE THROWS: Alaska Anchorage made all 18 of their free throw attempts on Thursday at Western Oregon. The performance ties UAA for the fourth best in GNAC history for free throws made with no misses. The Seawolves also own that single game record, having made 24 of 24 against BYU-Hawaii on Dec. 10, 2005. As a team, Alaska Anchorage is hitting 79.6 percent of their free throws, ranking third in Division II. As a whole, the GNAC is one of the top free throw shooting leagues in Division II. Nine of the conference’s 11 teams are shooting better than 70 percent from the charity stripe. Montana State BIllings is second in the conference at 75.1 percent.

RIVALRY GAME DELIVERS EXCITEMENT: Fans at Nicholson Pavilion provided a great backdrop for Saturday’s ROOT SPORTS GNAC Game of the Week and the teams from Central Washington and Western Washington delivered in providing another exciting game in this Evergreen State rivalry.

And despite that rockous home crowd, it was the visitors from Bellingham that rode home with the win. Western Washingon shot 60 percent from the field and a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line in the first half, which provided enough cushion to hold off a Central Washington second half rally for the 89-84 victory. The Vikings held a 12-point halftime lead, but the Wildcats came back to within two points with 2:45 left. Western Washington outscored CWU from that point to secure the win.

Ricardo Maxwell led Western Washington with 31 points on 12 of 20 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line in the win. Joseph Stroud led Central Washington with 34 points, going 12 of 15 from the field, 3 of 4 from three-point range and seven rebounds.

The two teams enter the week tied for fifth in the GNAC standings at 6-4 after beginning the week with victories. Central Washington was an 82-69 winner over Simon Fraser on Thursday night. Devin Matthews led the Wildcats with 18 points on 6 of 9 from the field with four rebounds and three steals. The Wildcats are 11-4 overall. Western Washington opened last week with an 80-78 win at Northwest Nazarene, paced by 21 points and eight rebounds by Jeffrey Parker. The Vikings are 12-7 overall.

READY AGAIN FOR PRIME TIME: Last week’s contests marked the return of Central Washington head coach Greg Sparling to the sidelines. The  20-year CWU head coach missed much of January after he slipped on some ice early in the month, an injury which required ankle surgery. Sparling coached most of the contest from a rolling chair. Assistant coach Drew Harris had coached the Wildcats in Sparling’s absence.

THE SANDWICH TEAMS: Sitting just below Western Oregon and Alaska Anchorage on the GNAC table is Alaska and Seattle Pacific. The two programs enter the week tied for third in the GNAC standings at 7-3.

The Nanooks slipped into a third place tie after splitting their games in Oregon last week. Alaska was a 99-66 winner over Concordia on Thursday. The Nanooks shot an impressive 58.3 percent from the field (42-72), paced by a 20-point, nine-rebound performance by Travante Williams. He led five UAF players that scored in double figures. Alaska fell in a closely played 64-59 contest at Western Oregon on Saturday. Williams once again led the way with 16 points and five rebounds. Alaska enters the week with a 13-5 overall record.

Seattle Pacific swept their games last week to extend their current win streak to five games. In Tuesday’s travel partner game, the Falcons scored a 65-46 win over Saint Martin’s at Royal Brougham Pavilion. Mitch Penner led the offense with 13 points while Gilles Dierickx scored 12 points on 5 of 8 from the field. On the road on Thursday, the Falcons were 81-71 winners at Montana State Billings Penner again led the way with 20 points, connecting on 5 of 7 from the field and 10 of 11 from three-point range. Seattle Pacific enters the week with a 14-4 overall record.

15 IN 30: Players in the GNAC continue to keep turning in high point-scoring total. To date, 12 different players have turned in performances of 30 points or more. Central Washington’s Joseph Stroud joined the 30-point club on Saturday with his 34-point performance against Western Washington. The Vikings’ Ricardo Maxwell joined the club the same night as he scored 31 against the Wildcats. Western Oregon’s Andy Avgi notched his such performance of the season on Thursday against Alaska Anchorage with 31 points. The Seawolves’ Sekou Wiggs leads the GNAC with four 30-plus point performances this season.

IN THE NATIONAL POLLS: Western Oregon continues to climb in both Division II national polls. The Wolves are No. 2 in this week’s D2SIDA Media Poll, climbing two spots. Western Oregon also climbed four spots in this week’s NABC Division II Poll to No. 4. The spot is in the D2SIDA poll is their highest of the season while their spot in the NABC poll is short of their highest position of No. 3. Seattle Pacific sits just outside the top-25 in both polls. The Falcons are the first team listed among those receiving votes in the NABC poll with 26 points and are third on the list in the D2SIDA Poll with 17 points. Alaska Anchorage was also among those receiving votes with six points in the NABC poll and four in the D2SIDA poll. The D2SIDA West Region Rankings find Western Oregon No. 1, Seattle Pacific No. 6, Alaska Anchorage No. 7 and Alaska No. 10.

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES OF NOTE: Saint Martin’s Fred Jorg scored 14 points in Tuesday’s loss at Seattle Pacific and then scored 27 points on 11 of 18 from the field with eight rebounds in the Saints’ 77-60 win at Montana State Billings...Simon Fraser’s Michael Harper poured in 26 points and had six rebounds and five steals in Thursday’s 82-69 loss at Central Washington...JJ Pankratz had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Clan in their 82-77 loss at Northwest Nazarene...Central Washington’s Naim Ladd scored 19 points and had eight rebounds and Thursday’s win over Simon Fraser...Northwest Nazarene’s Mike Wright scored 22 points on 9 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 from three-point range in Thursday’s loss to Western Washington. Wright then scored 20 points on 4 of 7 from three-point range and had six rebounds in Saturday’s win over Simon Fraser...His Crusaders’ teammate, Bouna N’Diaye, also had 20 points against SFU and went 16 of 18 from the free throw line...The Yellowjackets’ Emmanuel Johnson scored 15 points in Thursday’s loss to Seattle Pacific and recorded 17 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s loss to Saint Martin’s...Concordia’s Taylor Harris scored 19 points in 17 minutes off the bench in Thursday’s loss to Alaska. He was a perfect 8 of 8 from the field and 3 of 3 from three-point range...Cavaliers’ teammate Latrell Wilson scored 23 points on 10 of 18 from the field in Saturday’s loss to Alaska Anchorage.

GNAC GAME OF THE WEEK ON ROOT SPORTS: Five GNAC Games of the Week will air on ROOT SPORTS this season will air this season, with the final regular season game coming up on Sat., Feb. 20. Brad Adam will once again provide the play-by-play descriptions while Francis Williams will serve as the color analyst.

The three men’s games join two women’s contests to air on ROOT SPORTS and seven GNAC contests that will be featured on television this season. In addition to the ROOT SPORTS schedule, the championship doubleheader of the GNAC’s postseason tournament on Sat., Mar. 5, will be carried live throughout the country as part of the Division II Basketball National Showcase on the American Sports Network. The men’s game tips off at 5:30 p.m. PST and will be followed by the women’s title game at 7:30 p.m. PST.

In all, the GNAC will be featured either regionally or nationally three times in January, twice in February and twice in March. The 2015-16 campaign marks the seventh consecutive season in which the GNAC will have a presence on ROOT SPORTS, the premier regional sports network in the Pacific Northwest, and the third consecutive year in which the conference has featured a “Game of the Week” series on the network.

“The GNAC is extremely pleased to continue our Game of the Week series on ROOT SPORTS,” said conference commissioner Dave Haglund. “This has been a successful and long-standing association and helps expose our great brand of basketball to fans in our conference footprint and beyond. And we are looking forward to featuring our conference tournament championship games on the DII basketball showcase and reaching an even wider audience for the GNAC.”

GNAC Men’s Basketball Games On ROOT SPORTS
Sat., Jan. 9: Saint Martin’s at Western Oregon, 9 p.m. (Pacific)
Sat., Jan. 23: Western Washington at Central Washington, 6 p.m. (Pacific)
Sat., Feb. 20: Montana State Billings at Seattle Pacific, 9 p.m. (Pacific)

For satellite subscribers, ROOT SPORTS can be found on DirecTV channel 687 and Dish Network channel 426.

GNAC PRESEASON POLL - WESTERN WASHINGTON PICKED TO WIN: For the second year in a row, Western Washington is picked as the team to beat by conference coaches in the annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll.

The Vikings received five of 11 first place votes and a total of 114 points, finishing just ahead of defending regular season champion Western Oregon. The Wolves netted four first place votes and a total of 106 points.

Seattle Pacific, who finished second in the conference last year and won the GNAC Tournament championship, is picked third with a total of 100 points. The Falcons received the remaining two first place votes.

After a successful start in their non-conference schedule, Western Washington stumbled to lose seven of their first 10 GNAC games. The Vikings rebounded to win eight straight to end the regular season, tying for fifth to claim a spot in the GNAC Tournament. The Vikings went on to beat Alaska Anchorage and Western Oregon to claim a spot in the tournament final, where they lost to Seattle Pacific. Western Washington finished the season with a 20-11 overall record.

PRESEASON ALL-GNAC TEAM, AVGI PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Western Oregon forward Andy Avgi, the defending GNAC Player of the Year, added another award to his preseason arsenal as he was selected by the league’s head coaches as the GNAC Preseason Player of the Year. The senior was a unanimous selection for the honor, receiving 10 first place votes in the balloting (coaches could not vote for their own players).

Avgi was one of eight unanimous selections to the squad and is the only player on the list to be selected for a third year in a row. Joining him as a repeat selection on the 15-man squad were Western Washington forward Jeffrey Parker, WWU guard Ricardo Maxwell, Alaska Anchorage guard Brian McGill and Alaska guard Joe Slocum.

Other unanimous selections to the team include Parker, Maxwell, McGill, Western Oregon guard Julian Nichols, Seattle Pacific forward Mitch Penner, Montana State Billings guard/forward Momir Gataric and Central Washington center Joseph Stroud.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS: The following GNAC players have been selected to all-tournament teams during the 2015-16 season:
GNAC/PacWest Crossover (Nov. 13-14, Fairbanks): Travante Williams, UAF (Most Valuable Player).
Seawolf Jamboree (Nov. 21-22, Anchorage): Sekou Wiggs, UAA (Most Outstanding Player); Bangaly Kaba, UAF; Travante Williams, UAF.
Sodexo Classic (Nov. 21-22, Seattle): Gary Jacobs, CWU (Most Valuable Player); Joseph Storud, CWU; Bryce Leavitt, SPU.
GCI Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 25-27, Anchorage): Sekou Wiggs, UAA.
Oak Harbor Freight Lines Classic (Dec. 11-12, Seattle): Mitch Penner, SPU (Most Valuable Player); Gilles Dierickx, SPU; Preston Beverly, MSUB.

THIS WEEK'S GNAC MEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Andy Avgi
Western Oregon
F • 6-6 • 260 • Sr. • Wooburn, Ore.

Avgi averaged 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in two games as the Wolves swept the Alaska schools. He scored a game-high 31 points on 13 of 21 from the field with three assists and four blocks Thursday as WOU handed Alaska Anchorage their first conference loss, 76-66. Avgi then scored 24 points in Saturday’s 64-59 win over Alaska, going 5 of 8 from three-point range and 9 of 10 from the free throw line to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks.

Also Nominated: Almir Hadzisehovic (Alaska), Michael Harper (Simon Fraser), Emmanuel Johnson (Montana State Billings), Fred Jorg (Saint Martin’s), Ricardo Maxwell (Western Washington), Sekou Wiggs (Alaska Anchorage), Mike Wright (Northwest Nazarene).

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