Feb. 2, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
Western Washington University overcame a three-point deficit in the final seconds of regulation and went on to claim its 26th consecutive victory, an 83-76 triumph in overtime against Seattle Pacific University in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest between two top five nationally ranked teams Saturday before a sellout crowd of 2490 at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.
The defending NCAA Division II national champion Vikings, who are ranked No.2 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25, improved to 20-0, one shy of the WWU record for an unbeaten start set in 1971-72, and remain atop the GNAC at 11-0.
Forward Austin Bragg (Jr., Longview/Mark Morris) had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Vikings, who have won 26 straight games dating back to last season, a school and GNAC record. Cameron Severson (Sr., Petersburg, AK) came off the bench to contribute 16 points and 10 rebounds, including two free throws with 4:04 left in overtime that put WWU in front to stay, 74-72.
It was the 21st consecutive home victory for the Vikings, breaking a school record set from 1970 to 1972. WWU is 11-0 at home this season.
SPU, ranked No.4 nationally, fell to 16-3 overall and 9-2 in the GNAC. Both conference losses are against WWU, the only Falcon losses in their last 15 games. Guard David Downs led SPU with 20 points.
Neither team had a lead of more than four from the midway point of the first half to the end of regulation. Riley Stockon gave SPU a 69-66 lead on a 3-pointer with 1:21to play, but WWU got a pair of free throws by Severson with 16 seconds left, got the ball back on a 5-second violation on the ensuing inbound pass, and took a 70-69 lead on two free throws by Rico Wilkins(Sr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto) with 13.5 seconds left.
But the Falcons forced overtime, as Alex Weber-Brader grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled with 3.5 seconds left. Weber-Brader missed the first free throw, the fifth straight SPU miss in the final minute, but made the second to tie the score at 70-70.
The score was tied once more at 72-72, the 12th tie of the contest, but Severson's free throws and a basket by Wilkins gave WWU a 76-72 lead. A Downs 3-pointer briefly narrowed the gap to one, and the Falcons were still within two with under two minutes left, but John Allen (Sr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) hit a 12-foot jumper with 1:19 left to push the margin to four, 80-76, and the Falcons didn't score again.
Richard Woodworth (Jr., Bellevue/Newport) had 14 points for WWU, and Allen and Chris Mitchell (Sr., Everson/Nooksack Valley) each had 12.
Cory Hutsen had 14 points for SPU, Andy Poling added 13, and Patrick Simon had 11.
Free throws were the difference, as WWU was 23-of-26 (88.5 percent) and SPU was 14-of-25 (56.0 percent).
SPU opened my making 4-of-6 from 3-point range to grab an 18-9 lead after six minutes, the biggest of the game. But WWU rallied to tie the game at 24-24 with seven minutes left in the half, and eventually secured a 37-35 halftime lead.
With a four-game home stand at an end, WWU takes to the road to face Northwest Nazarene on Thursday, Feb. 7 (7 p.m.), and Central Washington on Saturday, Feb. 9 (7 p.m.).
WWU stays perfect barely
BELLINGHAM - The No. 2-ranked Vikings are still perfect, barely.
Call it luck, or give credit to WWU's suffocating defense in the final minute and in overtime.
Thanks to several missed opportunities by SPU and veteran play towards the end by Western, the Vikings knocked off No. 4-ranked SPU 83-76 in a wild back-and-forth GNAC contest Saturday, Feb. 2, at Carver Gym in front of 2,490 in attendance.
"We just pulled together as a family down the stretch," said WWU forward Austin Bragg, who finished with a team-high 20 points. "They took a lead on us, and they missed some free throws that really gave us a chance. We capitalized. It was just a great team win."
SPU's Riley Stockton buried a corner 3-pointer with 1:21 left in the game to give the Falcons a 69-66 lead.
Western failed to score on its next two possessions but was bailed out by four missed free throws in a row by Seattle Pacific's Jobi Wall and David Downs.
Cameron Severson made two free throws to cut SPU's lead to 69-68 with 16 seconds to go, and WWU got the ball back after the Vikings' denial defense on the ensuing inbounds generated a five-second call.
Rico Wilkins was fouled on Western's next possession and calmly drilled both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to give WWU a 70-69 lead with 14 seconds left.
Stockton drove the length of the court and missed a 3 with 7 seconds left, but SPU's Alex Weber-Brader was fouled on the offensive rebound. He missed the first foul shot before making the second to send the game into overtime after Wilkins missed a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
"Luckily, they missed like five free throws down the stretch," Bragg said. "That really gave us a chance. We made a couple key buckets down the stretch."
The Vikings let the crowd breathe a bit easier in overtime.
Free throws by Cameron Severson and Richard Woodworth, and a bucket by Wilkins, gave Western a 78-76 lead with 2:17 left in OT.
SPU went cold down the stretch, and Allen and Severson sealed the game with six points in the final minute.
"SPU in general is a tough game," Bragg said, "and when they are as good as they are this year, it's really tough no matter where you are. We're probably going to see them one more time in the regionals, and that will be a real fun game."
The win is the 25th straight dating back to last season. It was also Western's 21st home win in a row, which sets a new school record that had stood since 1972.
Bragg had 11 boards to go with his 20 points. Severson scored 16 points, Woodworth scored 14 and Chris Mitchell and John Allen scored 12 points in the win.