Early Returns Following Men's Preseason Poll Rankings
Western Washington's D'Angelo Minnis averaged 17.5 points per game and shot 65% from the field in two games at the GNAC/PacWest Challenge in California.
Western Washington's D'Angelo Minnis averaged 17.5 points per game and shot 65% from the field in two games at the GNAC/PacWest Challenge in California.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – Granted, it is early in the season, but so far the GNAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll is living up to form.

Preseason favorite Saint Martin’s and Montana State Billings, who was picked third, have cruised through the first two weeks of the season with 4-0 record. The Saints and Yellowjackets are the only GNAC teams to emerge undefeated.

Saint Martin’s opened last week with a blowout, laying a 94-44 rout on Douglas on Monday that saw every player score and four finish in double figures, led by sophomore forward Champ Spencer’s 14. On Saturday, the Saints cruised to an 88-76 win at Westminster (Utah), making the difference in a first half where SMU show 55.6% from the field and 56.3% from three-point range. Junior guard Tyke Thompson had top scoring honors with 19 points.

Newcomer Branden Bunn has led the way for Saint Martin’s The senior transfer guard is averaging 15.8 points per game and is shooting 53.5% from the field. Junior guard Kyle Greeley’s .667 field goal percentage (21-31) ranks third in the GNAC and 29th in Division II.

Where the majority of Saint Martin’s games have been at home, Montana State Billings has gone 4-0 on the road. The Yellowjackets opened close to home, posting an easy 71-56 win at crosstown rival Rocky Mountain. The victory featured a balanced scoring attack that saw six players score eight or more points.

On Saturday, MSUB relied more on its key scorers in a 76-69 win at Minot State. Senior guard Carrington Wiggins carried much of the scoring load, scoring 26 points on 5 of 11 from the field and a perfect 13 of 13 from the free-throw line. For the week, Wiggins averaged 20 points per game on 47.6% percent shooting. He was 15 for 15 from the free-throw line this week. His 18.8 points per game and .926 free-throw percentage (25-27) rank third in the GNAC.

CALIFORNIA SPLITTIN’: Four GNAC teams made the trip to Southern California last week, all coming back home with splits against some of the region’s top teams.

Seattle Pacific competed at Azusa Pacific for the second time in as many weekends, joining Western Washington in the GNAC/PacWest Challenge. The Falcons rallied in the second half but could not overcome an 11-point halftime deficit to host and PacWest favorite Azusa Pacific, falling 77-70 on Friday. Seattle Pacific bounced back well on Saturday, collecting a 77-70 win over Concordia on a night where the Falcons shot 54.2% from the field and outrebounded the Golden Eagles 39-27.

Junior forward Shaw Anderson earned his second straight GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week award after he averaged a conference-leading 24.5 points per game in the two tourney contests, shooting 64% from the field and 71.4% from three-point range. Anderson scored 19 points against Azusa Pacific before going off for 30 points against Concordia. It was his second 30-plus point performance of the season.

Against the Golden Eagles, Anderson saw his impressive free-throw shooting streak end with a miss on his third attempt against Concordia. He made 30 straight to open the season, tying him with Harold McAllister of Western Washington for the 17th-longest streak in GNAC history.

Western Washington procured a similar split but in reverse. The Vikings opened the tournament with a solid 92-78 win over Concordia in a game where four WWU players scored in double figures. Junior guard D’Angelo Minnis had his best night of the season, leading the way with 25 points on 9 of 12 from the field, 3 of 4 from three-point range 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. He also had seven rebounds and four assists.

The Vikings took an 86-72 loss to Azusa Pacific on Saturday, unable to bounce back from a 51-point first half from the Cougars. Sophomore guard Kai Johnson was the leading scorer with 14 points.

Central Washington became the third straight GNAC team to beat preseason No. 13 ranked Cal State San Marcos this season, taking a 69-60 road victory last Tuesday. The Wildcats pulled away from a close contest, outscoring the Cougars 46-38 in the second behind 19 points off the bench from junior guard Camron McNeil on 8 of 12 from the field.

The Wildcats’ road trip ended with a 57-51 loss at Cal State LA on Saturday. McNeil once again led the offense with 13 points on 6 of 8 from the field in 23 minutes of work with five rebounds.

Northwest Nazarene also headed to Southern California and also picked up a split. The Nighthawks opened the trip with a 69-54 loss at Point Loma last Tuesday. They needed a couple of extra periods to earn the win over Cal State LA on Thursday, going double overtime for the 87-82 victory. The second overtime was the only period that wasn’t close in the game with the Nighthawks outscoring the Golden Eagles 11-5 in the final five minutes.

Sophomore guard Tru Allen paced the NNU offense in the victory with 23 points on 6 of 16 from the field and 10 of 15 from the free-throw line.

NANOOKS IN THE WIN COLUMN: Alaska headed to the Cal State Monterey Invite in Seaside, California and came home with a split. The Nanooks competed well against the host Otters, outscoring the home team 45-42 in the second half, but dropped an 80-77 decision. Junior forward Abdullahi Mohamed led the Nanooks with 21 points, connecting on 7 of 10 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Saturday saw Alaska cruise to a 65-57 win over Cal State East Bay. The Nanooks shot 51.1% from the field and out-rebounded the Pioneers 37-24. Freshman forward Tyler Mrus led the way with 18 points, shooting 7 of 9 from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point range.

BURNABY MOUNTAIN BLOWOUTS: Canada’s NCAA team improved to 3-1 with a pair of blowout victories over two fellow Canadian programs. Simon Fraser blasted to a 101-55 win over Okanagan on Friday before collecting an 83-46 win over Douglas on Saturday. Five SFU players scored in double figures in both games.

Freshman forward Nigel Hylton led SFU in the win over Okanagan with 20 points and nine rebounds. Freshman guard/forward Immanuel Oludele averaged 17 points per game to lead the Red Leafs, scoring 17 points in both games.

THE WEEK AHEAD: Thanksgiving week may mean a break from classes but not from the court as most of the GNAC’s teams will be in action this week.

Northwest Nazarene hosts College of Idaho in the first leg of the annual Mayor’s Cup competition on Tuesday before hosting the NNU Thanksgiving Classic on Friday and Saturday. The tournament will see the Nighthawks and Central Washington take on Azusa Pacific and Midwestern State.

Alaska and Alaska Anchorage will face Westminster (Utah) and Salem in the Alaska Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday and Saturday.

Western Washington hosts Maine-Fort Kent on Tuesday before traveling south for a Saturday meeting with Point Loma. Montana State Billings heads to South Dakota to take on Black Hills State on Wednesday and South Dakota Mines on Friday.

Saint Martin’s plays two games at home, hosting Evergreen State on Tuesday and Academy of Art on Friday. Simon Fraser heads on the road for the first time this season, playing at Western Colorado on Saturday and Colorado Mesa on Sunday.

Western Oregon plays just one this week, traveling to Phoenix, Arizona to face Western New Mexico on Tuesday.