FAIRBANKS-There's something about the Patty Center. The Nanooks improved to 6-0 at home this year. No win bigger than last night's 65-61 victory over no.15 Western Washington. It's the second year in a row the Nanooks defeated the Vikings at home. Last February the Nanooks ended a 30 game winning streak by the Vikings who were then ranked no.2 in the country.
Last night it was all about the Nanook defense. It was there the whole game and was especially need when the Nanooks could put the ball in the basket. The Vikings were coming off a 104-89 win the night before over UAA. But the Nanooks held them to just 61 points. The Vikings average 90 points per game which is second to only UAA in the conference. After this game the Nanooks now have the best scoring defense in the GNAC.
The Nanooks slowed the game down and made the Vikings play in the halfcourt and forced 15 turnovers in their 2-3 zone. AUF scored 23 points off those turnovers. The Nanooks also won the hustle points category outscoring the Vikings 16-6 in second chance opportunities.
The Vikings shot 39 percent for the game making the Nanooks 7-0 when holding opponents under 40 percent shooting.
Alaska was only ahead 31-30 at the half.
The Vikings were able spread a 12-2 run into the second half and took their first lead of the game at 34-31with a Joey Schreiber layup. Schreiber had 18 points for the Vikings. The Nanooks answered with a 7-0 run to give them a 38-34 lead. They wound not trail after that.
It looked as if the Nanooks would runaway with this one as 21-9 run gave the Nanooks the largest lead of the game-14 point margin 59-45 with eight minutes to go.
The Vikings clawed their way back with a 14-2 to pull within two 61-59 with 58 seconds left. Austin Bragg closed out that run with six straight points. Bragg had a game high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
It came down to free throws as Joe Slocum was at the line but he missed on the front of end of a one-and-one. The Nanooks switched to a man defense and Slocum made up for his miss fighting over a screen and snatching his only steal of the game and it was clutch. He called timeout and Sergej Pucar was fouled on the next play. The Nanooks hit their final four free throws sandwiched between a Vikings layup with four seconds left for the final score.
Andrew Kelly made a concerted effort on the glass with 11 boards. He also had 14 points on 7-12 shooting. Three other Nanooks were in double digits. Ronnie Baker and Slocum had 12 points. Slocum had five assists and only one turnover as well. Pucar scored a team high 18 points for UAF and was 4-4 from the free throw line.
The win gives the Nanooks a 7-4 overall record and a 2-1 record in the GNAC. Every team in the conference has one loss.
It doesn't get easier for the Nooks because this week they visit no. 11 Seattle Pacific this Thursday before going to Montana State Billings on Saturday.