Nanooks Numb Oregonians En Route To Team Of The Week
Alaska is one of five GNAC men's basketball teams that opened conference play 2-0.
Alaska is one of five GNAC men's basketball teams that opened conference play 2-0.

Monday, December 9, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – As frigid as Fairbanks was last week, the Alaska men’s basketball team got off to a hot start in GNAC play as the Nanooks won their first two conference games at home to snap a six-game skid and earn selection as the GNAC Team of the Week.

The Nanooks opened their conference schedule with a 72-66 win over previously unbeaten Western Oregon on Thursday then edged out Concordia, 116-111, in a thrilling double-overtime game on Saturday at the Patty Center.

Down by seven points to Western Oregon at the half, the Nanooks turned things around and shot 59.3 percent from the field, outscoring the Wolves, 41-28, in the second half to run away with a win in their conference opener. The Nanooks finished the game with a .490 field goal percentage and scored 21 points off of 16 turnovers.

“We dug ourselves into a hole so we made some changes and some guys stepped up,” head coach Greg Sparling said. “We had an extremely challenging non-conference season with eight games on the road in three states but we got back home and the crowd was great.”

Junior guard Shadeed Shabazz earned GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week honors after leading the Nanooks in the two wins as he averaged 35 points per game. Shabazz scored 27 points against the Wolves, shooting 12 of 18 from the field while adding four steals, three assists and two rebounds.

Freshman center Mawich Kachjaani finished just short of a double-double against the Wolves with 19 points and nine rebounds to go with two assists and a steal. Kachjaani connected on 4 of 4 from the field and 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

Alaska’s hot streak carried into Saturday’s win over the Cavaliers as the Nanooks shot 58.2 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three-point range in a double-overtime game that consisted of 12 ties and 26 lead changes. The Nanooks scored 44 points in the paint and 24 points off of 17 turnovers by the Cavs.

“It was a great team win from top to bottom,” Sparling said. “We’ve been preaching about cutting down our turnovers and we got that down to 12 in a double-overtime game, which was big, and we found the hot hands when we needed to.”

Shabazz’s hot hand led the Nanooks again as he dropped 43 points against the Cavs, connecting on 14 of 23 from the field, 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and 11 of 15 from the free throw line. He also finished the game with four steals, two rebounds, two assists and a block in 47 minutes played and became the 15th player in GNAC history to score 43 points or more in a single game.

Senior guard Spencer Sweet scored 19 points on 63.6 percent shooting with six rebounds and three assists as he platooned well with Shabazz in the starting lineup. Junior guard Markel Banks also shined off the bench as he went off for 33 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. Banks made 11 of 14 from the field and 11 of 12 from the free throw line.

With the pair of wins, Alaska improved to 3-7 overall and 2-0 in GNAC play as it enters a four-week break from competition. The Nanooks will continue conference play in the new year as they hit the road to play at Saint Martin’s on Jan. 2.

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