Top Teams, Rivalries Close First Half Of GNAC Season
Thursday's game at Western Oregon will feature the GNAC's top two scorers. UAA's Sekou Wiggs is averaging 24 points per game, while WOU's Andy Avgi is averaging 21 points per game.
Thursday's game at Western Oregon will feature the GNAC's top two scorers. UAA's Sekou Wiggs is averaging 24 points per game, while WOU's Andy Avgi is averaging 21 points per game.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

STILL UNDEFEATED: As the first half of the GNAC season comes to a close, Alaska Anchorage continues to stand as the only undefeated team in conference play. But their in-state rival came the closest of any team this season to bringing that to an end.

The Seawolves opened the week with an easy 81-61 win at home over Montana State Billings on Tuesday. They shot 47.3 percent from the field and outrebounded the Yellowjackets 41 to 31. Sekou Wiggs led UAA offensively with 21 points and eight rebounds on 6 of 14 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

On Saturday, Alaska Anchorage found themselves on the ropes late at Alaska, trailing by as much as four points with under a minute left. Spencer Svejcar saved the Seawolves from defeat when his three-pointer with four seconds left tied the game at 76-76 and sent the contest into overtime. Svejcar then hit another three-pointer less than a minute into the extra period that gave UAA the lead for good en route to a 100-91 victory. Svejcar finished with 22 points and went 4 of 6 from three-point range, including the two game-changing three pointers. For his efforts, Svejcar was named the GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.

Wiggs had another outstanding week offensively. In addition to the effort against Montana State Billings, Wiggs scored 30 points at Alaska, his fourth performance of 30 or more points. His ledger included 14 of 19 from the free throw line. In addition to leading the league and ranking in Division II in scoring at 24 points per game, Wiggs enters the week ranked third in Division II in both free throws made (140) and free throw attempts (184). Wiggs also leads Division II in total points (454). Teammate Corey Hammell leads the GNAC in rebounding (9.9 per game) and ranks fourth in Division II with 189 total rebounds.

As a team, Alaska Anchorage leads the GNAC in scoring margin (+14.5) and free throw percentage (.789) and is ranked second in scoring offense (86.6 points per game) and rebounding margin (+6.8). The Seawolves lead Division II with 422 free throws made, is ranked third in free throws attempted (535) and total assists (327) and is fourth in total rebounds (761).

THE SHOWDOWN AWAITS: Western Oregon is the next team hoping to put a stop to Alaska Anchorage’s undefeated run. The Wolves stand second in the GNAC with a 7-1 league mark, but own the best overall record in the league at 14-2. Western Oregon will host the Seawolves on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

The Wolves enter the week leading the GNAC in three-point percentage (.391), steals (9.38) and turnover margin (+5.62), are second in scoring defense (68.7 points allowed per game), scoring margin (+12.2) and three-pointers made per game (9.38) and are third in field goal percentage (.476), rebounding defense (32.8 allowed per game) and assist/turnover ratio (1.48). Western Oregon stands sixth in Division II in turnover margin and turnovers per game (10.0) and 10th in fewest turnovers (160, tied with Central Washington).

Western Oregon extended their current win streak to five games with a pair of road wins over the weekend. The Wolves shot 51.5 percent from the field and outrebounded Simon Fraser 47-27 in a 90-67 rout of the Clan on Thursday. Andy Avgi, the GNAC Preseason Player of the Year, led the Wolves with 20 points on 8 of 12 from the field to go along with with nine rebounds. Western Oregon made it just as easy on Saturday in a 78-58 win at Western Washington. Avgi contributed 19 points on 7 of 14 from the field while Alex Roth came off the bench to score 18 points on 7 of 10 from the field.

Avgi enters the week ranked second in the GNAC in scoring, averaging 21 points per game, and ranks second with a field goal percentage of .588. Julian Nichols leads the GNAC and is 10th in Division II in assist/turnover ratio (3.35) while Tanner Omlid is second in the GNAC and ninth in Division II in steals (2.64 per game). Roth is third in the GNAC in three-point percentage (.460) and Jordan Wiley is ranked fourth (.459).

IN THE NATIONAL POLLS: Western Oregon climbed three spots in the NABC Division II Coaches Poll, moving up up No. 8. They retained their No. 4 spot on the D2SIDA Media Poll while they were the unanimous No. 1 pick in the D2SIDA West Regional Poll. Seattle Pacific and Alaska Anchorage were among teams receiving votes in both polls. The Falcons earned 17 points in the NABC poll and 11 points in the D2SIDA poll while the Seawolves earned 14 points in the NABC poll and seven points in the D2SIDA poll. In the regional rankings, Alaska Anchorage is ranked seventh, Seattle Pacific is eighth and Alaska is ninth.

RIVALRY HIGHLIGHTED IN ROOT SPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK: One of the fiercest rivalries in all of the GNAC will be front and center when Central Washington hosts Western Washington in the ROOT SPORTS GNAC Game of the Week. The game will air Saturday at 6 p.m.

Both teams will be looking for a win to keep pace in the GNAC standings. The Wildcats enter the week tied with Seattle Pacific for fourth in the GNAC standings at 5-3, 10-3 overall. Central dropped a 75-62 decision at Seattle Pacific on Thursday before rebounding for a hard-fought 75-71 win at Saint Martin’s on Saturday. Devin Matthews scored 17 points and went 6 of 9 from the field in the loss on Thursday while Joseph Stroud scored 20 points and had eight rebounds and six blocks in Saturday’s victory.

Western Washington stands in sixth place in the GNAC standings at 4-4 and are 10-7 overall after splitting a pair home games last week. The Vikings tied Central Washington’s GNAC single game point total on Thursday with a 119-98 win over Concordia. Trey Dreschel had another big game for WWU, scoring 27 points off the bench on 10 of 18 from the field, 3 of 4 from three-point range and 4 of 4 from the free throw line. Ricardo Maxwell added 25 points on 11 of 15 from the field. The VIkings took a 78-58 loss to Western Oregon on Saturday. Dreschel again led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Central Washington enters the week leading the GNAC in scoring (87.6 points per game), field goal percentage (.491), blocked shots (4.92 per game) and defensive rebounds (28.69 per game) and is second in three-point shooting (.386), three-point percentage defense (.321 allowed) and assists (17.62). Western Washington ranks second in the GNAC in field goal percentage (.480), rebounding defense (32.6 allowed per game) and assist/turnover ratio (1.49).

DEFENSIVE JUGGERNAUT: Seattle Pacific is keeping pace in the GNAC Championships race thanks to its solid defense. The Falcons lead the GNAC in seven defensive categories, including scoring defense (64.5 points allowed per game), field goal percentage defense (.392), three-point percentage defense (.252), rebounding (41.5 per game), rebounding defense (28.4 allowed per game), rebouding margin (+13.1) and offensive rebounds (13.13 per game). Seattle Pacific leads Division II in three-point percentage defense and rebounding margin and are ninth nationally in field goal defense.

DEPARTMENT OF ACHES AND PAINS: Montana State Billings’ Jace Anderson will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in final minute of the Yellowjackets’ 77-75 win on Jan. 2 over Western Washington...Central Washington head coach Greg Sparling continues to be out of action after he injured himself over the weekend slipping on ice in Ellensburg early in Jnauary, requiring surgery. Assistant coach Drew Harris has assumed head coaching duties in Sparling’s absence.

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES OF NOTE: Marc Matthews of Montana State Billings came off the bench to score 17 in Tuesday’s loss at Alaska...Teammate Emmanuel Johnson scored a career high 22 points of 7 of 14 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free throw line in Thursday’s loss at Alaska Anchorage...Alaska’s Travante Williams scored 18 points and had seven rebounds and two blocks in Thursday’s win over Montana State Billings...Concordia’s Drew Martin went 11 of 16 from the field to score 29 to go along with six rebounds and four assists in Thursday’s loss to Western Washington...The Cavaliers’ Latrell Wilson scored 21 points, including 9 of 10 from the free throw line, and Tyler Gutierrez had 16 points in Saturday’s win at Saint Martin’s...Northwest Nazarene’s Bouna N’Diaye scored 22 points on 6 of 8 from the field and 8 of 10 from the free throw line in Thursday’s victory over Saint Martin’s...Jordan Kitchen led the Saints in that game with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds while teammate Fred Jorg scored 21 on 7 of 12 from the field and 7 of 8 from the charity stripe in Saturday’s loss to Central Washington...Michael Harper led Simon Fraser with 17 points in Thursday’s loss to Western Oregon while Oshei Gairey had 22 points in Saturday’s loss to Concordia...Mitch Penner led Seattle Pacific with 22 points and eight rebounds in Thursday’s win over Central Washington...Gilles Dierickx finished with 20 points and pulled down 17 rebounds in SPU’s Saturday’s win over Northwest Nazarene.

GNAC GAME OF THE WEEK ON ROOT SPORTS: Five GNAC Games of the Week will air on ROOT SPORTS this season will air this season, with the next men’s game coming up on Sat., Jan. 23. Brad Adam will once again provide the play-by-play descriptions while Francis Williams will serve as the color analyst.

The three men’s games join two women’s contests 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)

For satellite subscribers, ROOT SPORTS can be found on DirecTV channel 687 and Dish Network channel 426.

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.

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.

Spencer Svejcar
Alaska Anchorage
G • 6-4 • 190 • Jr. • Arvada, Colo.

Svejcar averaged 20.5 points per game as he played in key role in maintaining the Seawolves’ unblemished GNAC record. He scored 19 points on 6 of 10 from the field 5 of 8 from three-point range in Alaska Anchorage’s 81-61 win on Tuesday over Montana State Billings. Svejcar then scored 22 points on 7 of 13 from the field and 4 of 6 from three-point range, including a three-pointer with three seconds left in regulation to force overtime, in UAA’s 100-91 overtime win at Alaska. He also scored the go-ahead three-pointer in overtime.

Also Nominated: Andy Avgi (Western Oregon), Gilles Dierickx (Seattle Pacific), Trey Dreschel (Western Washington), Emmanuel Johnson (Montana State Billings), Fred Jorg (Saint Martin’s), Drew Martin (Concordia), Bouna N’Diaye (Northwest Nazarene).