Feb. 21, 2013
FAIRBANKS, Alaska -
A school-record 30-game winning streak that lasted nearly a calendar year came to an end Thursday as Western Washington University fell to University of Alaska Fairbanks, 77-73, in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest at the Patty Center on the UAF campus.
The defending NCAA Division II national champion Vikings, ranked No.2 for the fifth straight time in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 and No.1 in the West Region rating, fell to 24-1 overall and 15-1 in the GNAC. Guard John Allen (Sr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) had a game-high 33 points for WWU.
UAF improved to 14-9 overall and 9-6 in the GNAC. Center Sergej Pucar had 26 points and seven rebounds for the Nanooks. Ronnie Baker had 18 points, and guard Dominique Brinson, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:10 left, added 13 points.
Brinson's trey gave UAF a 69-66 lead and the margin eventually extended to five, 73-68, on a pair of Andrew Kelly free throws with 1:19 left.
The Vikings closed the gap to three on a pair of Richard Woodworth (Jr., Bellevue/Newport) free throws with 51 seconds to go, and after Brinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, WWU had a chance to tie, but Austin Bragg's 3-point try (Jr., Longview/Mark Morris) rimmed out with 22 seconds left, and the Nanooks made 5-of-6 free throws to keep the Vikings at bay.
It was the first setback for WWU since an 82-78 loss to Montana State-Billings in the GNAC tournament on Mar. 2, 2012. The Vikings then won six straight games to claim the NCAA II national title, and took their first 24 games this year to extend the streak to 30. Both the 30 overall wins and the 24 triumphs to start a season were school and GNAC records.
Forward Paul Jones (Sr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) had 11 points for the Vikings, who shot just 37.5 percent (24-of-64) from the field, their second lowest mark of the season.
The Nanooks led throughout the first half, using a run of 10 straight points to take a 23-12 lead with 12:14 left in period. UAF led, 36-30, at halftime.
The Vikings used a run of 10 straight points, the first eight by Allen, early in the second half to take a 43-40 lead. Their last lead was at 53-51 on a Rico Wilkins (Sr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto) 3-pointer with 8:49 remaining.
WWU entered the contest third nationally in 3-point percentage defense, holding teams to 27.8 percent behind the arc, but UAF shot 45.0 percent (9-of-20), the best accuracy for a Viking opponent in the last 19 games.
The loss snapped an 11-game series winning streak for WWU.
The Vikings next are at Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 23 (7:30 pm.) for a GNAC counter.