WWU averts upset bid with 77-72 win over Alaska Fairbanks

Richard Woodworth

Feb. 11, 2012

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Guard Richard Woodworth (So., Bellevue/Newport) scored seven of his 15 points in the final three minutes, including a go-ahead three-pointer with 2:37 to play as Western Washington University fought off an upset bid to defeat University of Alaska Fairbanks, 77-72, in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest Saturday 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 22-3 overall and remain atop the GNAC at 13-1, needing two wins in their final four regular-season games to clinch the top seed in the conference tournament. Forward Rory Blanche (Sr., Ashland, OR) had game-highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds for WWU, which won its ninth straight game and improved to 12-1 at home.

UAF, which suffered its 12th straight loss, fell to 4-21 overall and 1-14 in the GNAC. Guard Dominique Brinson led four Nanooks in double figures with 17 points, and center Sergej Pucar added 15.

UAF held a 50-41 lead with 12 minutes left, and still had a four-point margin, 67-63, on a fastbreak layin by Brinson with 3:31 to go. But Paul Jones (Jr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) hit a layin in traffic; Zach Henifin (Sr., Bellingham), despite giving away six inches, blocked a Pucar shot; and then Woodworth hit a trey with 2:37 left, giving the Vikings a 68-67 lead.

Two possessions later, WWU worked the shot clock and Jones hit a three-pointer, putting the Vikings in control, 71-67, with 1:04 to go. A Nico Matthews layin cut the margin to two with 34.5 seconds left, but WWU hit six straight free throws to seal the victory.

Guard John Allen (Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) had 13 points, and Jones and Henifin added 11 each for WWU, which was 19-of-21 (90.5 percent) at the foul line, with Blanche and Henifin each going 7-of-7.

WWU held a 31-25 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half, but UAF rallied to take a 34-33 halftime lead as Brinson banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer. Brinson had 13 points in the first half.

It was the 509th career triumph for WWU coach Brad Jackson, putting him alone in third place among the winningest collegiate coaches in the state of Washington.

The Vikings, who are trying to become the first GNAC team to go through a season undefeated on the road, make their final conference road trip to Northwest Nazarene on Thursday (7 p.m.), Feb. 16, and Central Washington on Saturday (7 p.m.), Feb. 18.


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