Feb. 9, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Guard John Allen (Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half, helping Western Washington University grind out a 59-50 victory over University of Alaska Anchorage in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest Thursday between two nationally ranked teams at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.
The Vikings, ranked No.15 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, improved to 21-3 overall and remained atop the GNAC at 12-1 with their eighth straight triumph despite being held 24 points below their season average of 83.4 points a game.
UAA, ranked No.17, had a six-game winning streak snapped and fell to 17-5 overall and 11-3 in the GNAC. Center Taylor Rohde had game-highs of 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Seawolves, including 20 of their first 22 points after halftime.
The score was tied at 38-38 with 4:47 to play, but a Paul Jones (Jr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) jumper gave WWU the lead and the Vikings never relinquished it. The key burst came on a five-point possession, as Allen converted two free throws after a technical foul, and then Rico Wilkins (Jr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto) hit a three-pointer, giving WWU a 47-39 advantage with 3:17 left.
The Vikings led by as much as 10 in the final minute. Travis Thompson hit two free throws and a three-pointer to pull UAA within five, 55-50, with 20 seconds left, but Jones, who finished with 10 points, hit four consecutive free throws to seal the victory for WWU.
Rohde was 10-of-18 from the field, and was the only UAA player to have a field goal in the second half until Thompson's late three-pointer.
The triumph was the fourth for the Vikings in five contests against nationally ranked teams. They are 11-1 at home this season.
WWU jumped to a 10-2 lead in the first five minutes, hitting 5-of-6 shots from the field, capped by an alley-oop dunk by Zach Henifin (Sr., Bellingham). But UAA, which entered the contest leading the GNAC in scoring defense at 63.8 points a game, was able to slow the pace the rest of the half, holding the Vikings to just four points in the next 11 minutes and eventually taking a 22-20 lead at halftime.
It was the 508th career triumph for Western coach Brad Jackson, tying him for third place with former UW coach Hec Edmundson for third place among the winningest collegiate coaches in the state of Washington.
WWU entertains Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday (7 p.m.) in GNAC contest.
Team defense lifts Vikings to important GNAC win
DAVID RASBACH / THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
BELLINGHAM - Anybody who has passed basic arithmetic can tell you that a 3-pointer is more costly to give up than a 2-pointer, but it takes a basketball coach to figure out the best way to prevent giving up the trey.
Western Washington University men's coach Brad Jackson and his team entered a Thursday, Feb. 9, Great Northwest Athletic Conference showdown with Alaska Anchorage knowing that the Seawolves had three players that were shooting better than 45 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, including two that had more than 100 attempts.
So, to slow them up, Jackson went to his own brand of simple arithmetic - knowing that five almost always beats one.
The Vikings allowed 26 points to Anchorage post Taylor Rohde but used tremendous team defense to hold the Seawolves to 2 of 13 from 3-point range and overcame their own slow start offensively to wrestle away a 59-50 victory. John Allen led Western with 15 points, while Paul Jones scored 10 - eight of them coming from the free-throw line during the game's final minute.
"We played it exactly like we planned coming in," Jackson said. "We knew that Rohde was probably going to get his points - he came in averaging (20.1) a game. But we also knew that they could shoot the ball really well from outside. ... We decided to go one-on-one with Rohde down low and play good team defense to not allow them to get off any easy 3s and try to take that away from them."
The plan worked so well that Jackson picked up his 508th career victory, tying him with former University of Washington coaching great Hec Edmundson for the third most collegiate coaching wins in state history.
In spite of that accomplishment, Jackson was much more thrilled about WWU (21-3, 12-1 GNAC) stretching its conference lead over the Seawolves (17-5, 11-3) to 11/2 games with five games remaining in the regular season.
"Anytime you beat Alaska Anchorage twice in a season, it's a pretty big deal," said Vikings senior forward Zach Henifin, who finished with eight points and team highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (four). "We've done it two or three times now, and not many teams can say that. They always seem to have a good team."
In the second half, after Anchorage grabbed a 22-20 halftime lead on a buzzer-beating put-back by Phillip Hearn, the Seawolves relied almost entirely on Rohde.
In fact, for the first 15 minutes, 43 seconds of the half, they relied solely on Rohde, as he scored their first 16 points of the half. Steve White finally put another Anchorage player in the second-half box score when he hit one of two free throws with 4:17 to play to cut Western's lead to 40-39, and he hit another foul shot with 1:47 left, but it wasn't until Lonnie Ridgeway hit a desperation 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds to play that a Seawolf other than Rohde made a field goal. And that was the only one after halftime.
"We knew it was a big responsibility," Young said. "He's a good player. I think people almost expect him to get his 20. But I took it as a challenge and made it my personal responsibility to shut him down."
That burden fell almost entirely on Young with 13:55 to play, when Mitchell picked up his third and fourth fouls of the game on back-to-back trips down the floor, allowing Rohde to convert a pair of 3-point plays.
"I knew it was my time to step up," Young said. "I took it as even more of a challenge to step up."
And step up Young did, battling Rohde hard down low, trying to keep him from getting the ball inside 10 feet of the hoop, where the Anchorage senior could use a series of devastating inside moves.
"I thought Chris and Dan both did a good job on Rohde," Jackson said. "Dan is a guy that works so hard. ... He's a big man, but what makes him special is how hard he works."
Western trailed 37-36 with 5 minutes remaining, but the Vikings finally found something that started to work off the inbounds plays underneath the Seawolves' hoop. Henifin found Young and then Jones on inbounds plays on consecutive possessions, before getting the ball back on a third on Western's next opportunity to help the Vikings open a 42-39 lead.
"Coach likes me to take the inbounds, because I can see some things develop, and they were doing some ... switches underneath that were leaving guys open," Henifin said. "That allowed me to find Dan on one of them for a lay-up, and that just got us going."
Anchorage coach Rusty Osborne was called for a technical foul with 3:27 left, and John Allen made both free throws, before Rico Wilkins hit a 3 off a screen to make it 47-39, and the Seawolves never got closer than seven until Thompson's 3-pointer with 18.8 seconds left thanks, in large part, to the clutch free-throw shooting of Jones.
Western returns to action on Saturday, Feb. 11, when it hosts Alaska Fairbanks at 7 p.m.
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