No More Unbeatens As Upsets Reign Around League
Led by 24 points from Cariann Kunkel (No. 15), MSUB handed Alaska Anchorage their worst home loss in over eight years, and that was just one of the surprising results from this week.
Led by 24 points from Cariann Kunkel (No. 15), MSUB handed Alaska Anchorage their worst home loss in over eight years, and that was just one of the surprising results from this week.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

At this time last week, the GNAC had two consensus top-10 teams that were unbeaten in league play. Now the calculus of who’s hot and who’s not in the conference has been turned upside down thanks to a series of unexpected and sometimes historic results.

Central Washington got the ball rolling on Thursday night with a road upset of previously undefeated Western Washington, who entered the game 10-0 and ranked in the top five of both major polls. Vikings starting point guard Dani Iwami, the conference’s leader in three-point percentage, exited 20 seconds into the game with a serious knee injury, and the Wildcats opened up a big early lead with the home team still reeling.

Wildcats guard Kizzah Maltezo won her second GNAC Player of the Week award of the season after leading all scorers with 29 points in CWU’s win. Maltezo attempted a GNAC single-game high 25 field goals and made 11 of them, including three three-pointers. Emma Duff had a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double in the loss as the Vikings cut a 14-point second-half deficit down to two, but Central Washington ultimately led wire-to-wire in a 76-68 victory.

After CWU sent the first shockwave throughout the conference, the next two tremors came from Montana State Billings. After dropping the opener of a three games in four nights road trip, the Yellowjackets turned around less than 24 hours later and defeated Saint Martin’s 55-31 on their home floor with a suffocating defensive effort.

Saint Martin’s leaped out to an 8-2 start to the season, getting ranked as highly as No. 3 regionally and No. 25 nationally by D2SIDA, but have slowed since. In their past three contests, the Saints have been held to 32 percent from the field for the game, 17 percent from the field in the first half and 23 percent from the field for the game against MSUB. Despite the third-highest overall winning percentage in the GNAC, they sit eighth in the conference standings at 1-3.

That paled in comparison to MSUB’s statement win two nights later. Facing Alaska Anchorage on the road, the Yellowjackets boat raced the No. 9 team in the nation, ripping off a 16-0 run late in the first quarter and forcing the Seawolves into 32 percent shooting from the field and 22 turnovers. The Yellowjackets extended an eight-point halftime lead by 16 points in the second half on their way to a stunning 72-48 win.

Alaska Anchorage had home winning streaks of 33 straight overall games and 41 straight GNAC games snapped. By margin of victory, the loss is UAA’s worst at home since the Alaska Airlines Center opened in 2014.

This week’s regional and national polls are slightly misleading from a GNAC point of view since they account for Western Washington’s loss but not Alaska Anchorage’s. For the time being, UAA is ranked No. 8 in the WBCA Coaches Poll and No. 5 in the D2SIDA Media Poll, and the Seawolves retook the No. 1 spot in the D2SIDA West Region rankings. After their loss to CWU, the Vikings sit at No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, No. 13 in the Media Poll and tied for No. 2 in the West Region rankings.

Next week’s slate puts those two teams on a collision course, with Western Washington traveling to Alaska Anchorage on Thursday. The two schools were expected to both enter the clash unbeaten. Instead, there’s a new, unexpected layer of intrigue – UAA hasn’t lost back-to-back games since March 2014, and WWU hasn’t since February 2020, but one of them will have after Thursday’s game thanks to this week’s stunning results.


Kizzah Maltezo
Central Washington
G • 5-5 • Sr. • Honokaa, Hawaii
Maltezo led the Central Washington offense in Thursday’s 76-68 upset of No. 5 and previously undefeated Western Washington. Maltezo finished with a game-high 29 points on 11 of 25 from the field, including three three-pointers, and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line. She also had two rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes. Maltezo currently leads the conference in scoring with 19.5 points per game and becomes the fourth player in the GNAC to win multiple Player of the Week awards this season.

Also Nominated:
Pearle Green (Alaska), Tennae Voliva (Alaska Anchorage), Taryn Shelley (Montana State Billings), Lauryn Morris (Saint Martin’s), Tresai McCarver (Western Oregon), Dani Iwami (Western Washington).


• Alaska came up short in trying to halt what is now a nine-game slide, losing at Western Oregon 80-68 on Tuesday and at rivals and then-No. 9 Alaska Anchorage 76-50 on Saturday.
• Guard Pearle Green continues to turn heads in her freshman season as a bright spot for the Nanooks. She averaged 19.5 points per game for the week, led by a 26-point, five-rebound performance against Western Oregon. In that game, Green shot 9 of 10 from the floor, including 7 of 8 from three-point range. Her .875 percentage from three is the second-highest in a game by any GNAC player with more than five attempts this season.
• Green’s ability beyond the arc has her climbing up offensive leaderboards. She ranks sixth in the GNAC in scoring with 16.2 points per game, and leads the conference and ranks fifth in Division II with 3.14 made threes per game.
Destiny Riemers averaged 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds over the two games. She had 18 points with four rebounds against Western Oregon before falling just short of a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds against UAA. Reimers is 10th in the GNAC with 6.9 rebounds per game.
• Guard Claudia Diez Marti averaged 12.5 points off the bench in both contests, led by 14 points along with three rebounds and three assists against WOU. Diez Marti is averaging 10.1 points per game this season.
• The Nanooks rank third in the GNAC in steals per game (9.8). Individually, Paola Perez-Mendoza (2.5 steals per game) and Green (2.3) rank first and second in the conference, respectively.
• Alaska’s scheduled Thursday game against Simon Fraser has been postponed. They will face No. 11/13 Western Washington at home on Saturday.

• Alaska Anchorage defeated in-state rival Alaska 76-50 on Saturday but endured a shocking 72-48 home loss to Montana State Billings on Monday.
• The 24-point loss is the Seawolves’ worst at home by margin of victory since the Alaska Airlines Center opened in 2014. Their streaks of 33 consecutive overall home wins and 41 straight GNAC home wins were both snapped.
Tennae Voliva was UAA’s best and most consistent player over last week’s games. Voliva recorded a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double in the win over Alaska before recording a team-high 16 points with four rebounds against MSUB. Voliva is averaging 9.6 points and six rebounds per game and ranks fourth in the GNAC with an .825 free-throw percentage.
• The Seawolves rode freshman guard Jazzpher Evans against the Nanooks. Evans scored a season-high 13 points on 5 of 14 shooting with six rebounds. She was held to three points and four rebounds against MSUB. Evans is averaging 6.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this season.
• One of the keys to MSUB’s upset was the Yellowjackets unexpectedly winning the turnover battle. While Alaska Anchorage committed 22 turnovers to MSUB’s 16 in the ‘Jackets win, UAA’s turnover margin of +7.67 still ranks ninth in Division II and leads the GNAC. Alaska Anchorage ranks 15th in Division II in steals per game (12.8) and turnovers forced per game (23.67).
• In rankings that do not account for its loss to Montana State Billings, Alaska Anchorage rose one spot to No. 8 in the WBCA Coaches Poll and four spots to No. 5 in the D2SIDA Media Poll. The Seawolves received three of six first-place votes in the West Region rankings and took over the No. 1 spot.
• The Seawolves have not lost back-to-back games since March 2014, but face a tall task to avoid doing so with No. 11/13 Western Washington coming to town on Thursday. UAA’s Saturday game against Simon Fraser has been postponed.

• Central Washington kicked off the week of upsets by dethroning then-No. 2/5 Western Washington 76-68 in Bellingham on Thursday. The Wildcats’ Saturday game against Simon Fraser was postponed.
• The Wildcats led from wire to wire against the previously undefeated Vikings, opening up a 10-point lead in the first quarter and leading by as many as 14 in the second half. Central Washington was honored as the GNAC’s Team of the Week for their performance.
Kizzah Maltezo led all scorers with 29 points on 11 of 25 shooting. The 25 field goal attempts were the most by a GNAC player in a single game this season. Maltezo has had a green light all season, leading the conference in field goal attempts, three-point attempts and three-point makes. Her 19.5 points per game leads the GNAC and ranks 20th in Division II.
• Maltezo won her second GNAC Player of the Week award of the season for her scoring outburst in the upset win. Along with three-time winner Samantha Bowman, CWU has five Player of the Week wins this season. No other school has more than two.
Kassidy Malcolm recorded 19 points and six rebounds, while Bowman had a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double. Bowman’s stat line actually dropped her season averages. She ranks second in Division II with 15.1 rebounds per game, and her 17.2 points per game rank third in the GNAC.
• The Wildcats leaped up to No. 6 in the D2SIDA West Region rankings. They had ranked either ninth or 10th for the previous seven weeks.
• Winners of four straight, Central Washington will look to keep momentum rolling when they host Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Western Oregon on Saturday.

• Facing three road games in four nights due to postponements and make-ups, Montana State Billings lost to Western Oregon 66-57 on Friday but followed with two shocking 24-point wins – against Saint Martin’s 55-31 on Saturday and then-No. 9 Alaska Anchorage 72-48 on Monday.
• Defense was the name of the game this week for MSUB, which held Saint Martin’s to 23 percent shooting from the field and Alaska Anchorage to 31 percent. It was a surprising turnaround for the Yellowjackets, who are still allowing opponents to shoot 40.7 percent for the season, eighth in the GNAC.
Cariann Kunkel broke out offensively for the Yellowjackets this week, averaging 14.7 points over three games. Kunkel’s best performance came against Alaska Anchorage when she scored 24 points on 8 of 13 from the field and a perfect 6 of 6 from the line, along with seven rebounds. Kunkel is averaging 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Kortney Nelson just missed a double-double against UAA with 15 points and nine rebounds. She averaged 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds over the three games.
Taryn Shelley averaged 10.7 points and nine rebounds per game. Shelley shone against Western Oregon with a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double, then grabbed seven rebounds against both Saint Martin’s and UAA.
• The Yellowjackets lead the GNAC and rank 18th in Division II with a 1.15 assist/turnover ratio. They also lead the GNAC in free-throw percentage (.772) and rank second in the conference with a +6.6 rebound margin.
• Montana State Billings received votes in the D2SIDA West Region poll for the seventh straight week, but that poll did not factor in their win over Anchorage.
• The Yellowjackets play only once this week, hosting Seattle Pacific on Saturday.

• Northwest Nazarene’s scheduled games against Simon Fraser and Western Washington were postponed. In their last action, they defeated Alaska 81-75 on January 6 before hanging tough with No. 9 Alaska Anchorage, losing 76-72 on January 8 in a game that featured 20 lead changes.
• Freshman forward Teagan Thurman was borderline unstoppable for NNU, averaging 21 points and nine rebounds over the two games. Thurman tallied 18 points on 9 of 16 shooting and seven rebounds against Alaska before leading all scorers against UAA with 24 points and pulling down 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. Thurman ranks second in the GNAC with 9.5 rebounds per game and is tenth in scoring with 13.2 points per game.
Nyalam Thabach averaged 12.5 points and nine rebounds for the week, highlighted by a monster double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds against UAF. Thabach is averaging 12.3 points per game this season and ranks sixth in the GNAC with 7.5 rebounds per game.
• Guard Jordan Pinson exploded offensively, averaging 17.5 points and five assists per game. She scored 18 points with three assists against Alaska before tallying 17 points and seven assists against the Seawolves. Pinson shot 11 of 21 from the field for the week, including 5 of 9 from deep. She ranks 10th in the GNAC with 3.2 assists per game and is sixth in three-point percentage (.400).
• Northwest Nazarene remained at No. 9 in the D2SIDA West Region rankings. The Nighthawks average 71.1 points and a GNAC-leading 42.6 rebounds per game.
• The Nighthawks will host Western Oregon on Thursday and Saint Martin’s on Saturday.

• After their Thursday contest with Seattle Pacific was postponed, Saint Martin’s suffered a 55-31 home loss to Montana State Billings on Saturday. The 31 points was the fewest in a GNAC conference game this season.
 • Lauren Morris was a bright spot offensively, coming off the bench to score 11 points on 4 of 8 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds. Morris is averaging 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this year.
Claire Dingus struggled shooting the basketball, going 1 of 5 from the field and 1 of 2 from the line, but she was a force on defense with 10 rebounds and three steals. Ordinarily, scoring is no issue for Dingus, who ranks fifth in the GNAC with 16.3 points per game. She ranks fourth in the conference with 7.7 rebounds per game.  
• Guard Josie Matz, a transfer from Division I Portland playing in her third game of the season for the Saints, recorded six points thanks to a 4-for-4 night from the free-throw line and also blocked three shots. Matz is averaging seven points per game.
• Saint Martin’s has been a good defensive team, holding opponents to 58.8 points per game, the third-best mark in the conference. Opponents are shooting only 34 percent on the Saints this season, which also ranks third in the GNAC.
• The Saints dropped out of the D2SIDA West Region rankings but still received two votes. They had been in the regional rankings for the past seven weeks.
• Saint Martin’s will head east of the Cascade Mountains this week, facing Central Washington on Thursday and Northwest Nazarene on Saturday.

• Seattle Pacific’s past three scheduled games have been postponed, including last week’s games against Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon. The Falcons were last on the court when Ashley Alter hit a go-ahead jumper with 0.7 seconds remaining to lift SPU to a 66-64 win over Simon Fraser on January 6.
• The Falcons erased a seven-point halftime deficit on their home floor and tied it with 18 seconds left in regulation on a Kaprice Boston jump shot. In the extra period, SPU held for the last shot, but Boston missed a contested layup with three seconds left. The rebound pin-balled around and was deflected to Alter, who immediately fired from the foul line on the right-hand side and sunk the buzzer-beating shot.
• Alter had a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds for the game. She especially came alive in overtime with seven of her team’s 12 points and grabbed a rebound that allowed SPU to get the final possession. She is averaging 12.1 points per game for the season.
• Forward Natalie Hoff also had a strong game with 17 points and nine rebounds. Hoff ranks eighth in the GNAC with 7.2 rebounds per game. Boston also had 17 points, a career-high, while Abril Rexach Roure had a productive outing with seven points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
• Seattle Pacific has the fourth-best scoring defense in the GNAC, holding opponents to 58.9 points per game. Opponents are shooting only 34 percent from the field against SPU on the year, second-best in the GNAC. When their opponent misses a shot, the Falcons are cleaning the glass: their 29.7 defensive rebounds per game lead the GNAC and rank 22nd in Division II.
• The Falcons play once this week, heading to Montana State Billings for a Saturday afternoon match-up.

• Simon Fraser’s scheduled games against Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington were both postponed. In their most recent action, Simon Fraser dropped an overtime heartbreaker 66-64 to Seattle Pacific on January 6 before losing to MSUB 78-66 on January 8.
• Despite the 0-2 week, the silver lining for SFU was the performance of Jessica Jones. After scoring 12 points in her New Year’s Day season debut, Jones had two 20-plus point performances and proved she has knocked off all the rust from her absence. Jones scored 21 points against SPU before dropping 27 points with six rebounds and four assists against MSUB, including seven three-pointers. Jones scored 20 of her 27 points in the first quarter of the game against the Yellowjackets.
• Freshman forward Gemma Cutler averaged a consistent 13.5 points and eight rebounds over the two losses.  Cutler had 15 points and seven rebounds against SPU before tallying 12 points and a career-high nine boards against MSUB. Cutler made 13 of 27 from the field for the week. On the season, she’s made 51 of 87 for a .586 field goal percentage that ranks fourth in the GNAC.
Claudia Hart averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per game this week, led by a stellar performance against Seattle Pacific in which she had 15 points and eight rebounds along with three assists, two steals and two blocks.
• Simon Fraser has shown a propensity to get into shootouts, scoring the most points per game in the GNAC (72.0) and allowing the second-most (69.5). They fire away from behind the arc, ranking second in the GNAC in three-pointers attempted (322), made (103) and made per game (7.9).
• Both of SFU’s scheduled games against Alaska and Alaska Anchorage have been postponed due to health and safety protocols.

• Western Oregon earned a pair of solid home victories against Alaska and Montana State Billings, defeating the Nanooks 80-68 on Tuesday and the Yellowjackets 66-57 on Friday. The Wolves’ other game against Seattle Pacific on Saturday was postponed.  
• After starting the conference season 0-2, WOU has won three straight to climb above .500 in GNAC play.
Tresai McCarver continued to load up stat lines, averaging 18 points, seven rebounds and two steals per game over the two wins. McCarver was on a triple-double watch against Alaska, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Against MSUB, she led all scorers with 21 points and added six rebounds and three steals. McCarver shot 13 of 16 from the free-throw line over both games and ranks second in the GNAC in free throw attempts (63) and makes (47).
Cali McClave chipped in a pair of double-figure scoring performances. Against Alaska, McClave had a team-high 16 points on 5 of 18 shooting, including 4 of 15 from three. The 15 three-point attempts are the second-most in a single game this season for the GNAC. Against MSUB, McClave had a well-rounded line of 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. McClave ranks seventh in the GNAC with 1.9 steals per game.
• Seeing increased playing time in the absence of leading scorer Meadow Aragon, sophomore center Alexis Wright recorded a season-high 16 points on 5 of 7 from the field and 6 of 7 from the line to go with six rebounds against MSUB. Wright had seven points and seven rebounds against Alaska, including four offensive boards.
• Western Oregon leads the GNAC and ranks 10th in Division II with 5.5 blocks per game. They rank third in the conference in rebounds per game (40.4) and free-throw percentage (.699).
• The Wolves put their winning streak to the test against a pair of regionally-ranked opponents, facing Northwest Nazarene on Thursday and Central Washington on Friday.

• Western Washington fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, suffering a 76-68 home loss to Central Washington on Thursday that dropped the Vikings to 10-1 overall and 2-1 in the GNAC.
Emma Duff played well in the loss, recording a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double along with two blocks. Duff ranks seventh in the GNAC in scoring (14.1 points per game) and third in rebounding (7.7 per game) while leading the conference in free-throw percentage (.865).
• Center Carley Zaragoza had 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting and four rebounds. She ranks second in the GNAC with a .600 field goal percentage behind teammate Avery Dykstra (.604). Dykstra went 2-for-2 from the field in Thursday’s game.
• Guard Mollie Olson was the Vikings’ final double-figure scorer, tallying 11 points, four rebounds and five assists. Olson is averaging 11.1 points per game for the Vikings this season.
• Despite the setback, the Vikings remain top of the conference in many categories, including scoring defense (52.1 points per game allowed), scoring margin (+19.4), rebounding margin (+11.0), field goal percentage (.468) and field goal defense (.330). The latter two marks rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in Division II.
• The Vikings fell six spots to No. 11 in the WBCA Coaches Poll and 11 spots to No. 13 in the D2SIDA Media Poll. They ceded the top spot in the D2SIDA West Region rankings after holding it for three weeks and are now tied for No. 2.  
• The Vikings face a tough test to get back on track, traveling to take on No. 8/5 Alaska Anchorage on Thursday. The Seawolves are coming off their first home loss in 41 conference games. Afterward, WWU will play Alaska on Saturday.

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