Vikings knocked out of GNAC Tournament with 77-75 loss to Northwest Nazarene

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Michael Duty
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Michael Duty
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Feb. 28, 2011

Box Score

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Guard Drew Eisinger scored on a breakaway layin with 5.5 seconds left, lifting Northwest Nazarene University to a 77-75 victory over Western Washington University in an opening-round Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament game Monday at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.

Eisinger's basket was the only lead of the second half for the Crusaders. Western's Chris Mitchell (So., Everson/Nooksack Valley) then missed a 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.

Forward Michael Duty (Sr., Seattle/O'Dea), a first-team GNAC all-star, had 21 points for the Vikings, who finished the season 16-11, losing their last four games. Western was the No.4 seed in the GNAC tourney after posting an 11-7 record in conference play.

Northwest Nazarene, the No.5 seed, improved to 15-11 with its seventh straight victory. Second-team all-GNAC center Brian Barkdoll had a game-high 23 points on 11-of-13 field-goal shooting for the Crusaders, scoring eight of NNU's last 15 points.

Western led by nine, 71-62, with five minutes left, but NNU went on an 11-2 run to tie the score on two free throws by Anthony Golden with 49 seconds left.

Duty put Western back in front with two free throws, but Barkdoll tied the score on a post-up with 17 seconds left. The Vikings then looked for a final shot, but NNU's Lateef Williams smothered a pass, collected the loose ball and threw a long lead pass to Eisinger for the go-ahead points.

The Crusaders shot 58.5 percent (31-of-53) from the field, including a stunning 79.2 percent (19-of-24) in the second half. Walker had 17 points for NNU and Golden added 12. Eisinger scored nine points and handed out a game-high nine assists.

Western also shot well, hitting 53.4 percent (31-of-58) from the field, including 53.8 percent (7-of-13) on 3-pointers, but were just 2-of-7 from the floor with four turnovers in the last six minutes.

Forward Rory Blanche (Jr., Ashland, OR) had 16 points and a game-high seven rebounds for the Vikings, and guard John Allen (So., Brier/Mountlake Terrace) had 13 points despite being hampered by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the final regular-season game.

Western dropped all three meetings against the Crusaders this season. Monday's loss was sadly familiar for the Vikings, as they let a nine-point lead get away with four minutes left in regulation at Nampa, Id., on Jan. 22 in an 88-86 overtime loss.

NNU held a 15-13 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half Monday, but the Vikings went on an 16-5 charge and took a 31-20 advantage on a 3-pointer by Shedrick Nelson (Jr., Tacoma/Wilson) with 4:28 remaining in the period. Western led 35-29 at halftime.

The loss was Western's third straight at home after winning its first 11 games this season at Carver Gym.

Late steal, lay-up dooms Western men

BEN FLETCHER - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - The situation was mishandled.

Michael Duty scored 21 points and Rory Blanche added 16, but the Western Washington University men's basketball team watched a lead slip away on Monday, Feb. 28, against Northwest Nazarene University after turning the ball over three times over its final five possessions in a 77-75 loss in the first round of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament.

With the score tied 75-75 and 17 seconds on the clock, Vikings guard John Allen was stripped of the ball just past midcourt, and the fifth-seeded Crusaders converted it into a fast break lay-up with 5.5 seconds left for the final two-point margin.

It was enough to bounce the Vikings from the GNAC Tournament and end a season that crashed late with a four-game skid that followed the high of a six-game win streak. It was also the third time Western lost to Northwest Nazarene this season.

"The play was drawn up for Duty," said Allen, who was doubled by Crusaders' defenders once he crossed midcourt. "I tried to get it to him. The guy made a tough play, and it is what it is."

Allen chipped in 13 points, but two of his four turnovers came in the final minute as the Vikings tried to hold on after leading most of the game. The sophomore has come through for the Vikings on more than one occasion this season since arriving as a transfer from Washington State, so it was with some surprise that the Crusaders were able to steal the ball, then feed Drew Eisinger for a fast break lay-up that turned out to be the game-winner.

Western's Chris Mitchell got a solid look at a 3-pointer, but missed at the buzzer.

"That's my job to make sure we get into what we're doing and I couldn't do it," Allen said. "I turned the ball over then, and it cost the team."

The blame hardly lay in Allen's hands alone. Western led 71-62 with five minutes left, but NNU went on an 11-2 run to tie the score on two free throws by Anthony Golden with 49 seconds left. Containing 6-foot-10 center Brian Barkdoll, who finished with 23 points and six rebounds, was an ongoing problem for the Vikings in the second half, too. It didn't help that Western's top post defender, Zach Henifin missed the game with a hurt back.

Western actually won the battle of the boards 27-24, a victory in its own right after getting pummeled in that department the first two times these teams played. But the Vikings allowed the Crusaders to creep back into the game.

"I think we did a good job offensively, we just turn it over too much," Western coach Brad Jackson said. "That's the story of our team. You can't win games when you turn it over three of our last (five) possessions."

Rebounding and turnovers have been a season-long problem for these Vikings.

Western's two main ball-handlers on Monday were Allen and freshman Derek Dickerson, a former Squalicum High standout. Neither is a true point guard, but both, along with others, have logged time handling the ball this season after the Vikings lost guard Rico Wilkins earlier in the season to an Achilles injury and a couple other guards to redshirt.

"It's kind of like putting a round peg in a square hole with some of the things we were asking some guys to do, and it's unfair to them," Jackson said. "But we did the best we could with what we had. I don't know that you can ask much more than that."

The Crusaders won their seventh straight game. The Vikings finished the season fourth in GNAC standings with an 11-7 record and 16-10 overall in the regular season.