Feb. 16, 2012
NAMPA, Id. - Forward Rory Blanche (Sr., Ashland, OR) poured in a career-high 30 points, leading Western Washington University to a 77-67 triumph over Northwest Nazarene University in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest Thursday at Johnson Sports Center.
The Vikings, ranked No.10 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, improved to 23-3 overall with their season-high10th straight victory. WWU, the top-ranked team in this week's NCAA Division II West Region ratings, remained atop the GNAC at 14-1.
The triumph means WWU will finish no worse than second in conference play, clinching a first-round bye in the GNAC tournament. The Vikings can clinch the top seed in the tourney with one win in their final three regular-season contests.
NNU fell to 11-12 overall and 5-10 in the GNAC. Keith Moilanen led the Crusaders with 23 points.
NNU had a 10-6 lead five minutes into the contest before the Vikings ran off 15 straight points, scoring on six of seven possessions, to take a 21-10 advantage with 11:06 left in the first half. WWWU held a 35-27 lead at halftime.
The Vikings led by as much as 17 in the second half, and held a 64-49 lead with six minutes to go. The Crusaders chipped away, pulling to within six, 71-65, on a Moilanen three-pointer with 59 seconds left, but WWU hit six straight free throws to preserve the victory.
Guard John Allen (Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) had 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds for WWU, which shot 56.5 percent (26-of-46) from the field, including 62.5 percent (15-of-24) in the first half. Forward Paul Jones (Jr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) added 10 points off the bench.
Blanche was 13-of-15 from the field and 4-of-4 on free throws, extending his string of consecutive foul shots made to 19. He also had seven rebounds, helping the Vikings to a 26-21 advantage on the boards.
With the triumph, WWU set a GNAC record with its eighth consecutive conference road victory. The Vikings can become the first team ever to sweep their GNAC road schedule when they visit arch-rival Central Washington University on Saturday (7 p.m.).
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