Wednesday, March 6, 2013
PORTLAND, Ore. – Western Washington isn’t the only team in the GNAC that has had a historic basketball season this winter.
Seattle Pacific takes a 23-3 record and a seven-game win streak into this week’s GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships at Lacey.
A win Friday in the conference semifinals would give the second-seeded Falcons their most wins since 2001-02 when they finished with a 24-5 record. SPU will face either third-seeded Alaska Anchorage or sixth-seed Central Washington in Friday's first semifinal at 5:15 p.m. at Marcus Pavilion.
The second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. will match top-seed Western Washington against the winner of Thursday's second quarterfinal game between fourth-seed Alaska Fairbanks and fifth-seed Montana State Billings.
SPU posted a 6-1 record in February, losing only 83-78 to WWU in overtime on Feb. 2. That performance has earned fourth-year head coach Ryan Looney GNAC Coach of the Month honors.
Two wins last week helped SPU continue its upward climb in the NABC national rankings. The Falcons are now ranked third, the highest ranking in the school’s 70-year history of men’s basketball competition.
“I’m really excited for our guys,” Looney said. “This is something that they deserve. It’s been a lot of hard work from the start of the year until now.”
The Falcons, who were No. 4 last week, have been ranked in the Top 10 for all but one week this season. That No. 4 poll position matched the 1994 and 2007 teams for what was previously the highest ranking in school history.
SPU defeated Alaska Fairbanks 73-65 Saturday to secure the program’s best-ever regular-season winning ratio at 88.5 percent.
The Falcons put up some impressive numbers in February outscoring their opponents by 10.6 points per game and outrebounding them by 9.8 per contest.
Guard David Downs led a balanced attack in the month averaging 18.1 points to raise his season average to 14.0. Jobi Wall (11.0), Cory Hutsen (10.6) and Patrick Simon (10.3) also averaged in double figures in the month.
Meanwhile, Riley Stockton, the GNAC’s Defensive Player of the Year, provided the “glue” playing well in all facets including defense. He led the team in rebounding (8.7) and steals (6) and ranked second in assists (10) and blocked shots (5) during the month.
Regardless of what happens in the conference tournament, SPU is guaranteed a berth in next week’s NCAA West Regional. It will be the ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance for the Falcons. That is the longest streak in the nation among Division II schools.
For Looney, it will be his fourth. Since replacing Jeff Hironaka who left to join Ken Bone as an assistant at Washington State, Looney has led SPU to an 88-27 record, including 54-16 in conference contests.
His winning percentages of .771 (conference games) and .765 (overall) are the best in GNAC history among coaches who have been on the job for two or more seasons.
Including six seasons at Eastern Oregon Looney now has a career record of 183-82. Almost a quarter of thoses losses came in his first season when he guided the Mountaineers to a 4-22 record.
That was the only losing season he has had. Since then he has won 20 or more games in eight consecutive seasons averaging nearly 23 victories per campaign.