LACEY, Wash. - The Western Washington University men's basketball team secured an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II Tournament with a 71-69 victory over Western Oregon Saturday night to clinch the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament Championship at Marcus Pavilion.
The Vikings (25-5) claimed both the regular season and postseason GNAC Tournament, and will find out if the program will host the NCAA II West Regional next weekend or if they will travel to their next game. WWU heads into the NCAA Tournament with an eight-game winning streak, the third eight-game winning streak of the season, and has won 16 of its last 18 games. The defending West Region champion Wolves, the No. 3 seed in the GNAC tournament, ends its season at 18-13.
GNAC Player of the Year Taylor Stafford (Chicago, IL/Evansville) led the Vikings with 33 points and was named the tournament MVP scoring 64 points in the two tournament games. In Saturday's championship game, the senior guard was 12-for-21 from the field (3-for-7 3-pointers) to claim his eighth 30-point game of the season. Stafford keyed a late WWU comeback, converting a 3-point play late in the game when the Vikings trailed by four points with 2:31 remaining.
Redshirt freshman Daulton Hommes (Lynden, WA/Lynden Christian) added 10 points and 7 rebounds, and had a game-high 3 blocked shots. Junior forward Deandre Dickson (Easton, CA/Bakersfield College) came off the bench to contribute 10 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Western Oregon junior guard Demetrius Trammel paced Western Oregon with a career-high 33 points, connecting on 10-of-17 shots from the field and was 7-for-11 from 3-point range. Trammell scored 15 of the first 17 WOU points. First-team All-GNAC selection and conference defensive player of the Year Tanner Omlid added 12 points and 6 rebounds, and Ali Faruq-Bey had 16 points and 4 steals.
The game was a back-and-forth affair for much of the 40 minutes, with no team holding a lead of double-digits at any time. WWU held a 36-28 lead at the half, but WOU battled back to lead by 4 points 67-63 with 2:37 remaining in the game. The Vikings responded with a 7-0 run, fueled by a Stafford 3-point play and a long-distance jumper by Dickson, to erase the lead and give WWU the one-point lead at 68-67. Stafford hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to give the Vikings a 2-point lead at 71-69, and Malik Leaks missed the potential game-winning 3-pointer with 2-seconds remaining to secure the 2-point victory.
The first half set the tone for the rest of the physical game, with the Vikings trailing for most of the first 10 minutes, but had a strong finish. WWU went on a 12-4 run to pull away from a 24-24 tie to take an 8-point lead at 36-28 heading into halftime. Stafford scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting and was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. WOU was led by 21 points from Trammell, who was 6-for-11 from the field and 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Stafford scored 18 of his 33 points in the second half, while Dickson provided a boost with 8 points and 6 rebounds.
Next Up: The Vikings have secured a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament and the NCAA II West Regional next weekend...the team will find out if it will either host the West Regional in Bellingham or travel to a to be determined site on the selection show at 7:30 pm PT Sunday night on NCAA.com...WWU will be making its 7th trip to the NCAA II Tournament, first since advancing to the Elite 8 in 2012-13...the Vikings were the 2011-12 NCAA II National Champions.
Game Notes: The Vikings won their first GNAC Tournament Championship since the inception of the event in 2011, while making the championship game for the fourth time...WWU finished the game shooting 45.6% from the field (26-for-57) and was 4-for-15 from 3-point range (26.7%)...marked the fewest made 3-pointers in a game this season...WWU has won 8 consecutive games and 16 of its last 18 games overall...WWU earned the No. 1 seed in the GNAC Championships by going 17-3 in league play to win the regular-season championship by a two-game margin...WWU is ranked No. 15 in the NABC Coaches Division II top 25, No. 20 in the D2SIDA media poll and was No. 2 in the latest NCAA II West Region...Taylor Stafford recorded his eighth 30-point game of the season, second-most in a single-season in WWU history (9, Mike Franza, 1972-72) and second-most in a career behind Franza...Stafford's 682 points are the most in a single-season in WWU history and his 22.7 points/game are 2nd-best in WWU history (Franza, 1972-73, 25.6 ppg)...Daulton Hommes averaged 15 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the GNAC Tournament.
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