Top seed WWU advances to GNAC final with 61-43 win over UAF
March 8, 2013
LACEY, Wash. - Forward Paul Jones (Sr., Kent/Kent-Meridian) led a balanced attack with 12 points as top seed amd defending national champion Western Washington University advanced to the championship game with a 61-43 semifinal win over No.4 seed Alaska Fairbanks on Friday at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Championship Tournament taking place at Lacey on the campus of host Saint Martin's University.
The Vikings, ranked No.2 in this week's USA Today Sports/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll and No.1 in the West Region rating, improved to 27-1. They won the conference regular-season crown with a GNAC record-setting17-1 record.
WWU will face No.2 seed Seattle Pacific in Saturday's championship game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ROOT Sports. The Falcons defeated No.6-seed Central Washington, 85-78, in Friday's other semifinal.
UAF, which placed fourth in the GNAC standings, finished its season 16-12. Dominique Brinson and Pat Voeut each had 10 points for the Nanooks.
The triumph avenged WWU's only loss of the season, a 77-73 defeat at Fairbanks on Feb. 21.
The Vikings trailed, 20-19, with eight minutes left in the first half, but closed the period with a 19-7 run and held a 38-27 lead at halftime. WWU then opened the second half with six straight points in less than two minutes, capped by an Austin Bragg (Jr., Longview/Mark Morris) dunk that pushed the lead to 44-27 with 18:04 to play.
The margin was never less than 15 after that, as the Vikings held the Nanooks to just 16 points and 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) field-goal shooting in the second half.
The 43 points were the fewest allowed by WWU this season, and the 61 points scored matched its lowest output of the year.
It was the first-ever GNAC tournament triumph for WWU in the third year of the event. The Vikings lost, 77-75, to Northwest Nazarene in the opening round in 2011, and in 2012, received a bye before falling in the semifinals to Montana State Billings, 82-78.
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