Western Oregon Men Named Team of the Week
Western Oregon's Adam Hastings (11) is a key part of the Wolves' cohesion and balanced attack.
Western Oregon's Adam Hastings (11) is a key part of the Wolves' cohesion and balanced attack.

Monday, January 6, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – After being picked to finish sixth in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball preseason coaches’ poll, Western Oregon is off to a hot start in conference play, as a pair of big victories last week earned the Wolves GNAC Team of the Week honors.

Thursday evening, WOU welcomed No. 11-ranked Seattle Pacific, which was not only picked to win the GNAC in the preseason poll but was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA in one preseason poll. Seventeen points apiece from Marwan Sarhan and Rodney Webster helped WOU to its second upset of a top-15 team this season as the Wolves silenced SPU in a 74-70 victory.

“We had an aggressive mindset that carried through from start to finish,” head coach Brady Bergeson commented on the victory. “We never backed off on either side of the ball, and that really paid off in the last six-to-eight minutes.” 

On Saturday, WOU extended its overall winning streak to six games via a double-overtime victory against Montana State Billings. The Wolves twice overcame deficits with just seconds left on the clock, with a pair of free-throws by Webster to close regulation and a game-tying three by the senior guard with seconds left in the first overtime period.

“We made a number of plays under pressure and I am proud of our guys,” said Bergeson regarding the wild finish on Saturday. “Our guys were confident mentally, and there was never one time in a huddle or timeout where we didn’t think we were going to win the game.”

After winning just five conference games total in 2012-13, the Wolves are already two wins away from matching that total in the young 2013-14 season.

“First and foremost, there is no substitute for experience,” Bergeson commented regarding a roster whose youth was exposed a season ago. “We were reasonably young last season and the guys took their lumps through losses in a lot of close games.”

Bergeson believes that the hard-earned experience was ultimately what motivated his team to improve this season. “Through withstanding the pain we suffered last season we are now more experienced and have been in some situations,” Bergeson said. “The best word to describe our team is ‘gritty,’ and that really showed in the two games we played last week.”

While Webster has stepped into the spotlight as a player the Wolves can rely on offensively, Bergeson indicated that it is ultimately WOU’s entire front line working together that leads to success. “Marwan, Andy Avgi, Adam Hastings and Lewis Thomas have all been very consistent and Rodney brings us a spark of energy,” Bergeson commented on his starting five. “We have had a number of players step up in big situations this season, and there is a really good unselfishness and balance on this team.”

WOU faces a difficult task this week in the form of a road trip to Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington as the Wolves look to increase their string of wins to eight. “We take it one game at a time, and we have to really push ourselves to improve and stay hungry,” Bergeson said as conference play is now in full swing. 

“The attitude our guys have in terms of not caring who gets the credit is something I’m really proud of,” Bergeson said. “We have a lot to play and prepare for, but the bottom line is our roster has the experience and motivation from top to bottom to continue to improve.”