FAIRBANKS-The Alaska men's basketball team will have their first home games of the season in the GCI Alaska Invitational. The tournament starts tomorrow at 5 p.m. with Alaska's first game at 7 p.m. against University of Mary. The Nanooks won last year-their first GCI title in four years.
This year's field includes the Emporia State Hornets out of the Mid America Conference, Fresno Pacific Sunbirds of the PacWest and University of Mary Marauders of the Northern Sun.
The Hornets are on a four game winning streak after facing no.7 Oklahoma State and Wichita State in their non-conference games. The Sunbirds are 3-2 but have won back to back games. The Marauders are 2-0 to start their season as well.
But the Nanooks are coming off a 72-48 win over Holy Names themselves so everyone has momentum coming into the tournament. Alaska is going to focus on putting together a full forty minutes of basketball, something that's eluded them in their first two games.
"That's our main goal, let's put together two complete halves," Nanooks senior forward Andrew Kelly said. "We can't just come out on the first half and do really good and then come out not do good in the second half so playing 40 minutes of really strong defense and we're all playing together it was going to be really critical to get those three wins this week."
Sophomore guard Cody Pierson got his first start against Holy Names and knows that turnovers will be big for the UAF backcourt.
"We don't want to turn the ball over we just want to get us into our offense and get our teammates open shots, you just kind of limit our turnovers and just get back and play a good defense," Pierson said.
Head coach Mick Durham will use this home tournament against some good competition as part of his early season assessment process. It'll be the third straight weekend that the Nanooks have had a game.
"It's just great for us, you know, we're gonna learn a lot about ourselves again, this is our third weekend playing and that's what I'm looking forward to on Sunday. Kind of see where we're at in all phases of the game."