Defense Leads Seawolves, Wildcats Into New Year
Alaska Anchorage guard Jenna Buchanan averages 13.9 points per game and leads the nation in three-pointers.
Alaska Anchorage guard Jenna Buchanan averages 13.9 points per game and leads the nation in three-pointers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

POWER RECORDS TO END NON-CONFERENCE: Despite losses in GNAC play, Central Washington and Alaska Anchorage own the best overall records in the conference led by the top two defenses. Both teams return to GNAC play on three game winning streaks after each earning two impressive non-conference victories heading into the break.

With an 8-2 overall record, Central Washington enters the full slate of GNAC contests with the second best record in the conference. The Wildcats finished their non-conference season with two road wins in California over West Region opponents. They defeated Cal State Los Angeles 62-52 on Dec. 16 before beating Cal Poly Pomona 63-58 on Dec. 19.

Jasmin Edwards led the Wildcats against Cal State L.A., scoring 14 points while grabbing six rebounds with five assists. She finished 5 of 11 from the field after playing 39 minutes. The Wildcats shot 51.2 percent from the field while holding their opponents to 38.3 percent shooting. They used a 21-8 run in the third quarter to pull away in the contest after opening the second half tied at 27.

In their final game before the break, the Wildcats held off a late rally from Cal Poly Pomona to grab their third straight victory. Jasmine Parker's double-double led the way as she finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and three assists in 37 minutes. Mandy Steward added 14 points, four steals and three rebounds off the bench. The Wildcats capitalized on their opportunities, scoring 23 points off turnovers while allowing just nine points off of their own turnovers. The performances earned the Wildcats the GNAC's Red Lion Team of the Week award. Through 10 games, the Wildcats own the top defense in the conference, allowing just 54.8 points per game.

The Seawolves have been consistently the top team in the conference in the early going, using a combination of scoring and defense to reach a 15-1 record. They ended non-conference play hosting the Seawolf Hoops Classic, taking on tough opponents in Cedarville and No. 20 ranked UC San Diego.

Against Cedarville, the Seawolves used a 26-7 run in the third quarter to cruise to a 75-45 victory. They held Cedarville to 29.6 percent shooting from the field while hitting on 47.5 percent of their own shots. GNAC Preseason Player of the Year Megan Mullings led the team with 18 points in just 21 minutes.

In arguably their toughest matchup of the season against UC San Diego, the Seawolves once again came out on top in a close 76-72 victory. Mullings had another strong performance with 17 points, five rebounds and two steals while Christina Davis added 15 points off the bench. The Seawolves own the top offense in the GNAC, averaging 86.1 points per game, with the second best defense, allowing just 54.8 points per game.

IN THE RANKINGS: Despite suffering its first loss of the season, Alaska Anchorage remains atop the D2SIDA West Region Poll, receiving a perfect 60 votes. The Seawolves moved up two spots to No. 3 inthe D2SIDA National Poll after defeating UC San Diego. They have also received three first place votes in the poll.

This season, the Seawolves lead the nation in multiple statistics including assists (366), rebounds (691), scoring margin (31.3), steals (210) and three-point field goals made (148).

Three other GNAC teams join Alaska Anchorage in the West Region Poll. Western Washington ranks sixth after handing the Seawolves their only loss of the season. Central Washington bumped up one spot to No. 9 while Seattle Pacific ranks No. 10.

VIKING DOES IT ALL: Western Washington guard Aleisha Hathaway finished the non-conference slate with two strong performances, leading the Vikings on both sides of the ball. In a 65-45 victory over Midwestern State at the Las Vegas South Point Holiday Hoops Classic, Hathaway led the Vikings with 10 points, five steals and three assists. She is first in the GNAC with 2.5 steals per game. In a 72-62 loss to ranked opponent Quincy, Hathaway had a big game with a career high 24 points, shooting 8 of 12 from the field and a perfect 5 of 5 from the free throw line. Her performances earned her the GNAC Player of the Week.

NEW YEAR’S EVE FESTIVITIES: The conference season resumes on New Year’s Eve, with 10 of 11 teams back in action. Games include Seattle Pacific at Central Washington, Western Washington at Concordia, Simon Fraser at Western Oregon, Montana State Billings at Alaska Anchorage and Saint Martin’s at Northwest Nazarene. Conference play will continue through the rest of the season, leading up to the GNAC Championships beginning Mar. 3 in Lacey, Wash.

PRESEASON POLLS: Alaska Anchorage, the preseason favorites to win the GNAC for a second straight season, is living up to the expectations with a 15-1 start.

After being picked to place second in the coaches poll, Western Washington rebounded from a 1-3 start to win four straight games, now sitting at 6-4 overall and on top of the GNAC. The Vikings played in two competitive tournaments in California to start the season, facing top teams from the PacWest and California Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Vikings picked up two victories at the Oahu SodexThanksgiving Classic, defeating Chaminade 61-53 on Thanksgiving Day and Hawaii Pacific 64-62 on Friday. The Vikings then defeated both Alaska and Alaska Anchorage to start the GNAC season.

Seattle Pacific was picked third in the preseason poll and has started the year similarly to the Vikings, joining them in California. After an excellent showing in week one with victories over Humboldt State and Fresno Pacific, the Falcons fell twice to UC San Diego and Azusa Pacific. Seattle Pacific then responded with two wins at home to open conference play, defeating Western Oregon and Concordia. The Falcons return after the break sporting a 5-4 overall record.

GNAC BASKETBALL GAMES TO AIR ON ROOT SPORTS, AMERICAN SPORTS NETWORK: Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball returns to ROOT SPORTS during the 2015-16 season, with a five-game telecast schedule set to open up Jan. 9 in a contest featuring defending regular season men’s conference champion Western Oregon playing host to Saint Martin’s. The women’s schedule opens on Wed., Jan. 13, with Western Washington at Saint Martin’s.

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 Women’s Basketball Games On ROOT SPORTS

Wed., Jan. 13: Western Washington at Saint Martin’s, 8 p.m. (Pacific)

Thurs., Feb. 11: Western Oregon at Montana State Billings, 6 p.m. (Pacific)


The following GNAC players have been selected to all-tournament teams during the 2015-16 season:

Yellowjacket GNAC/PacWest Challenge: Alisha Breen, MSUB; Rachel Fradgley, SFU.

Mt. McKinley Bank North Star Invitational: Stephanie Toumson, UAF; Jordan Wilson UAF.

Sodexo Tip-Off Classic: Hannah Rodrigues, SPU; McKenna Daly, Concordia.

Seawolf Hoops Classic: Christina Davis (MVP), UAA; Megan Mullings, UAA.