Nighthawks Climb Standings, Dubbed Team Of The Week
After starting conference play with a 1-4 record, the Nighthawks turned their season around to win seven straight games.
After starting conference play with a 1-4 record, the Nighthawks turned their season around to win seven straight games.

Monday, February 3, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. – The hottest team in the conference resides in Nampa.

The Northwest Nazarene men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to seven games last week with wins at home over Western Washington (87-64) on Thursday and Simon Fraser (81-77) on Saturday to earn GNAC Team of the Week honors.

The Nighthawks scored 28 points off of 17 forced turnovers to go with 30 points off the bench while limiting Western Washington to 37.7 percent from the field in the 23-point rout of the Vikings. Riding that momentum into Saturday, the Nighthawks sunk 51.8 percent from the field in the four-point shootout against the Clan as four players scored in double digits. It took some time, however, for them to take control of the game.

“Thursday was an emotional win for us and we felt a letdown coming,” head coach Paul Rush said about the Nighthawks’ early struggles against the Clan. “We talked about it and it still happened, but their ability to respond to that adversity is impressive.”

Senior forward Olamilekan Adetunji was named the GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week after he led the Nighthawks with a pair of double-doubles, averaging 19.5 points and 13 rebounds per game. Adetunji scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in Thursday’s win over Western Washington then finished the week with 21 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Simon Fraser. On the week, he drained 66.7 percent from the field and 73.3 percent from the free-throw line. Adetunji ranks second in the GNAC with 8.1 rebounds per game and sixth with a .576 field goal percentage.

“We believe in each other,” Adetunji said. “Coach did a great job of talking to us through some rough times and told us to keep believing in the process and keep working hard.”

Senior forward Adalberto Diaz finished the week with totals of 30 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and a steal, shooting 61.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. His week was highlighted by a 24-point, seven-rebound performance against the Clan as he made 10 of 14 from the field and 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. Diaz is second on the team and 22nd in the conference in scoring with 12.5 points per game.

“We are a resilient group,” Diaz said. “We went through some adversity and we just love each other. Guys play for each other and it’s amazing.”

Senior guard Jayden Bezzant scored 24 points and added 11 assists, three steals and two rebounds in the two games. He led all scorers against the Vikings with 20 points to go with five assists and three steals, hitting 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 6 from outside.

Junior point guard Ezekiel Alley scored in double digits off the bench in both games, making 4 of 9 from the field against both opponents. Alley opened the week with 10 points against the Vikings then followed with 12 points against the Clan. He ranks fifth in the conference with 1.5 steals per game, sixth with 15.8 points per game and eighth with a .435 three-point field goal percentage.

The Nighthawks improved to 11-6 overall and 8-4 in GNAC play to come into a tie with the Vikings for second place in the conference standings. Their seven-game win streak came after a 1-4 start to conference play.

Northwest Nazarene was among others receiving votes in the latest D2SIDA West Region Rankings. Up next, the Nighthawks will play at Central Washington on Tuesday before returning home to host Montana State Billings on Saturday.