Seawolves, Nanooks Climb To North End Of GNAC Table
Sekou Wiggs poured in 32 points in Alaska Anchorage's 61-59 win at Seattle Pacific on Thursday. It was Wiggs' third 30-plus point scoring performance of the season.
Sekou Wiggs poured in 32 points in Alaska Anchorage's 61-59 win at Seattle Pacific on Thursday. It was Wiggs' third 30-plus point scoring performance of the season.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

IN THE WIN COLUMN: It has been a struggle for Concordia in their first Division II season as they have been in rebuilding mode with five new starters. The Cavaliers got into the GNAC win column last weekend with a pair of strong performances in their first league road trip.

Concordia led most of the way at Northwest Nazarene on Thursday before the Crusaders’ Mike Wright hit four free throws in the final minute of regulation to tie the game at 73-73. Late in the extra period, Concordia pulled away from an 82-82 tie with 39 seconds left with free throws by Drew Martin and Jarrett Gray and a fastbreak lay-up by Riley Hawkin to seal the 87-83 victory. Martin had a big game to lead the Cavaliers to the win, scoring 30 points on 9 of 14 from the field and 11 of 16 from the free throw line.

At Central Washington on Saturday, Concordia trailed by as much as 15 points early in the second before rallying to make it close late. Latrell Wilson made five free throws over the final 1:10 to keep the Cavaliers in the game in the 85-80 loss. Wilson led the way with 34 points, connecting on 10 of 18 from the field, 4 of 6 from three-point range and 10 of 11 from the free throw line.

Concordia is in the second year of their transition from NAIA membership to NCAA Division II membership. Last season, Concordia finished 25-7 overall and advanced to the NAIA Division II National Tournament after finishing Cascade Collegiate Conference play with a 14-4 record.

DUCK SOUP: Western Oregon gave Division I Oregon a handful at Matthew Knight Arena on Tuesday night as the Wolves took an eventual 88-60 loss to the Ducks. The final score, however, does not tell the whole story. After trailing by as much early in the game, the Wolves came within three points on a Jordan Wiley three-pointer with 2:32 left and went into halftime down 40-36. Western Oregon came out of the locker room scoring the first four points of the second half and tied the game at 40-40 before foul trouble to three of the Wolves’ top players allowed the Ducks to surge and cruise to the win. Alex Roth led the Wolves offensively with 13 points on 4 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from three-point range.

With the loss, the GNAC finishes 1-10 this season against Division I teams and 1-3 in counting contests. Alaska Anchorage picked up the only win during the GCI Great Alaska Shootout, collecting a 71-65 exhibition win over Drexel on Nov. 27. The Seawolves also had the closest losses to Division I teams with a 75-72 exhibition defeat by Middle Tennessee on 71-65 on Nov. 26 and a 91-87 loss to San Jose State on Nov. 28.

STREAKS END: Both of the GNAC’s nine-game win streaks came to an end last week. Western Oregon’s loss at Oregon ended the Wolves’ streak of nine straight to open the season. Central Washington then puncutated that defeat by handing the Wolves an 81-77 loss on Thursday in Ellensburg. Western Oregon began a new streak on Saturday, cruising to a 75-53 win at Northwest Nazarene. Seattle Pacific saw it’s nine-game streak stopped by Alaska Anchorage on Thursday, defeating the Falcons in a close 61-59 contest. Alaska turned that into a two-game losing streak for SPU as they defeated the Falcons in another close game on Saturday, 79-75.

MUSHING TO THE TOP OF THE TABLE: With their sweeps of both Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin’s over the weekend, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage find themselves as not only the holders of the GNAC’s longest win streaks, but also as the only undefeated teams in league play.

The Nanooks were selected as the GNAC Team of the Week thank to their 79-72 win at Saint Martin’s on Thursday and their 79-75 win over Seattle Pacific on Saturday. The wins ran the Nanooks’ win streak to a league-leading six games. Brandon Davis led the Nanooks in the win over Saint Martin’s with 22 points, six rebounds and a perfect 7 of 7 from the free throw line. Travante WIlliams led the way in the win over SPU with 17 points as he led four Alaska players scoring in double figures. Alaska enters the week ranked second in the GNAC in a number of statistical categories including scoring (87.8 points per game), scoring margin (+13.2), rebounding (.404) and steals (9.42 per game). Individually, Williams is second in the GNAC in steals (2.75 per game) and fourth in three-point percentage (.475). Joe Slocum is second in the GNAC in assist/turnover ratio (2.83).

Alaska Anchorage extended their win streak to five games with their 61-59 win at Seattle Pacific on Thursday and a 91-74 win at Saint Martin’s on Saturday. Sekou Wiggs was the Seawolves’ workhorse in both contests. He scored 21 points and added 10 rebounds in Thursday’s win over SPU and then came alive for 32 points on 8 of 16 from the field and 14 of 16 from the free throw line in the win over SMU. Corey Hammell notched his Division II leading ninth double-double of the season at Saint Martin’s, finishing with 17 points and 15 rebounds.The Seawolves have played the most games of any GNAC team (15) and leads the conference in scoring margin (+15.4) and free throw percentage (.779, 324-416). Alaska Anchorage leads Division II in free throws made and is fourth in free throws attempted. Wiggs enters the week leading Division II in total points (361) and free throw attempts (147), second in field goal attempts (246) and free throws made (111) and third in field goals made (112).

STILL DEFENSIVELY STRONG: Despite their two close losses to the Alaska schools, Seattle Pacifiic still ranks as one of the top defensive teams in Division II. The Falcons enter the week leading the nation in three-point defense (.242 allowed), second in rebounding margin (+11.5), third in field goal defense (.375 allowed) and fourth in scoring defense (63.3 points allowed per game). The Falcons lead the GNAC in all four categories and also lead the league in rebounding defense (29.3 allowed per game) while ranking third with 40.8 rebounds per game.

DEPARTMENT OF ACHES AND PAINS: Montana State Billings’ Jace Anderson, the reigning GNAC Player of the Week, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in final minute of the Yellowjackets’ 77-75 win on Saturday over Western Washington...Central Washington head coach Greg Sparling will miss at least the next two to three weeks after he injured himself over the weekend slipping on ice in Ellensburg, requiring surgery. Sparling missed the Wildcats’ win over Concordia on Saturday. Assistant coach Drew Harris has assumed head coaching duties in Sparling’s absence.

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES OF NOTE: Montana State Billings’ Marc Matthews came alive for 27 points on 9 of 15 from the field and 5 of 7 from three-point range in the Yellowjackets’ win over Simon Fraser on Thursday...The Yellowjackets’ Preston Beverly came off the bench to score 26 on 8 of 11 from the field and 9 of 9 from the free throw line in Saturday’s win over Western Washington...Simon Fraser’s Oshea Gainer poured in 24 points and had nine rebounds in Thursday’s loss at Montana State Billings. He went 11 of 16 from the charity stripe...Northwest Nazarene’s Detwon Rogers scored 22 points while going 7 of 11 from both the field and the free throw line against Concordia on Thursday...Tyler Copp of Saint Martin’s scored 15 points and went 5 of 9 from the field in the Saints’ loss to Alaska on Thursday...Seattle Pacific’s Gilles Dierickx scored 16 points on 7 of 14 from the field and had two blocks against Alaska Anchorage on Thursday while Brendan Carroll had 18 points on Saturday against Alaska...Joseph Stroud had 26 points and six rebounds and made 11 of 14 from the field in Central Washington’s win over Concordia on Sarturday...Alex Roth led five Western Oregon players in double figures and went 4 for 8 from three-point range in Saturday’s win at Northwest Nazarene...The Wolves’ Julian Nichols poured in 29 points on Thursday at Central Washington.

IN THE NATIONAL POLLS: Western Oregon is down, but certainly not out, in the latest national polls. The Wolves slipped one spot to No. 6 in the D2SIDA Division II Media Poll and fell 11 spots to No. 14 in the NABC Division II rankings following their loss to Central Washington on Thursday. After their losses to Alaska and Alaska Anchorage, Seattle Pacific dropped to No. 24 in the NABC poll and dropped completely off the D2SIDA poll. Thanks to their weekend sweeps, both the Nanooks (3 pts.) and Seawolves (2 pts.) both appear among teams reciving votes in the NABC poll. In this week’s D2SIDA West Region Rankings, Western Oregon maintained their No. 1 ranking. Alaska moved up one spot to No. 8 while Seattle Pacific dropped five spots to No. 9. Alaska Anchorage makes their first appearance in the regional rankings this season at No. 10.

GNAC GAME OF THE WEEK ON ROOT SPORTS AIRS ON SATURDAY: The first of five GNAC Games of the Week to air on ROOT SPORTS this season will air on Saturday. Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon will be showcased with tip-off scheduled for 9 p.m. Brad Adam will once again provide the play-by-play descriptions while Francis Williams will serve as the color analyst.

Saturday’s game opens a five-game schedule of men’s and women’s games to air on ROOT SPORTS and seven GNAC contests that will be featured on television this season. 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 Men’s Basketball Games On ROOT SPORTS
Sat., Jan. 9: Saint Martin’s at Western Oregon, 9 p.m. (Pacific)
Sat., Jan. 23: Western Washington at Central Washington, 6 p.m. (Pacific)
Sat., Feb. 20: Montana State Billings at Seattle Pacific, 9 p.m. (Pacific)

GNAC PRESEASON POLL - WESTERN WASHINGTON PICKED TO WIN: For the second year in a row, Western Washington is picked as the team to beat by conference coaches in the annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll.

The Vikings received five of 11 first place votes and a total of 114 points, finishing just ahead of defending regular season champion Western Oregon. The Wolves netted four first place votes and a total of 106 points.

Seattle Pacific, who finished second in the conference last year and won the GNAC Tournament championship, is picked third with a total of 100 points. The Falcons received the remaining two first place votes.

After a successful start in their non-conference schedule, Western Washington stumbled to lose seven of their first 10 GNAC games. The Vikings rebounded to win eight straight to end the regular season, tying for fifth to claim a spot in the GNAC Tournament. The Vikings went on to beat Alaska Anchorage and Western Oregon to claim a spot in the tournament final, where they lost to Seattle Pacific. Western Washington finished the season with a 20-11 overall record. View Complete Poll Release

PRESEASON ALL-GNAC TEAM, AVGI PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Western Oregon forward Andy Avgi, the defending GNAC Player of the Year, added another award to his preseason arsenal as he was selected by the league’s head coaches as the GNAC Preseason Player of the Year. The senior was a unanimous selection for the honor, receiving 10 first place votes in the balloting (coaches could not vote for their own players).

Avgi was one of eight unanimous selections to the squad and is the only player on the list to be selected for a third year in a row. Joining him as a repeat selection on the 15-man squad were Western Washington forward Jeffrey Parker, WWU guard Ricardo Maxwell, Alaska Anchorage guard Brian McGill and Alaska guard Joe Slocum.

Other unanimous selections to the team include Parker, Maxwell, McGill, Western Oregon guard Julian Nichols, Seattle Pacific forward Mitch Penner, Montana State Billings guard/forward Momir Gataric and Central Washington center Joseph Stroud.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS: The following GNAC players have been selected to all-tournament teams during the 2015-16 season:
GNAC/PacWest Crossover (Nov. 13-14, Fairbanks): Travante Williams, UAF (Most Valuable Player).
Seawolf Jamboree (Nov. 21-22, Anchorage): Sekou Wiggs, UAA (Most Outstanding Player); Bangaly Kaba, UAF; Travante Williams, UAF.
Sodexo Classic (Nov. 21-22, Seattle): Gary Jacobs, CWU (Most Valuable Player); Joseph Storud, CWU; Bryce Leavitt, SPU.
GCI Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 25-27, Anchorage): Sekou Wiggs, UAA.
Oak Harbor Freight Lines Classic (Dec. 11-12, Seattle): Mitch Penner, SPU (Most Valuable Player); Gilles Dierickx, SPU; Preston Beverly, MSUB.

Jace Anderson
Montana State Billings
G • 5-10 • Jr. • Whitewater, Mont.

Anderson put together a pair of 18-point performances as the Yellowjackets picked up home wins over Simon Fraser and Western Washington, making 50 percent of his shots and going 7 of 13 from three-point range. Against the Clan on Thursday, Anderson scored 18 to go along with six rebounds, six assists and made 7 of 7 from the free throw line. In the win over the Vikings, Anderson added two steals and two assists to his 18 points.

Also Nominated: Joel Devastey (Northwest Nazarene), Drew Martin (Concordia), Julian Nichols (Western Oregon), Cole Preston (Saint Martin’s), Sekou Wiggs (Alaska Anchorage), Travante Williams (Alaska).