Vikings look to heat up in frozen north

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Mike Palm
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Mike Palm
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Feb. 9, 2003

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

UPDATE: Needing to close out the season with a hot streak to have any chance for a post-season playoff berth, the Western Washington University men's basketball team heads to Alaska for a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conference contests.

Western, 11-8 overall and 5-5 in the GNAC after falling to Seattle Pacific, 80-72, on Saturday, visits University of Alaska Anchorage (10-10 overall, 7-4 GNAC) on Thurs., Feb. 13, then travels to University of Alaska Fairbanks (15-5 overall, 8-3 GNAC) on Sat., Feb. 15. The Vikings split with the two teams in Bellingham, defeating Alaska Fairbanks, 97-79, on Jan. 16, but falling to Alaska Anchorage, 88-83, on Jan. 18.

The loss to the Seawolves began the current slump which has seen the Vikings lose four of the last six games, the worst six-game run since the 1998-99 season. Western has also lost three of its last four home games (first time since 1997-98) after having a streak of consecutive home wins reach 19 with the triumph over Alaska Fairbanks.

The Vikings have played the last three games without starting forward Maurice Tyree, a sophomore who had been averaging 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. He ranks fifth in the GNAC in blocked shots, sixth in rebounds and seventh in field goal percentage. The status of Tyree, who has been out because of a kidney ailment, for this week's games is still in doubt.

Senior center Mike Palm is averaging team highs of 17.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. The 6-foot-10 Palm is shooting 56.1 percent from the field, including 7-of-16 on 3-pointers, and is connecting on 81.3 percent (78-of-96) of his free throws. Palm ranks seventh in the GNAC in scoring, second in blocked shots, and fourth in both rebounds and in field goal percentage. He has scored double figures in 18 of 19 games this season, and in 35 of his last 38 contests.

For his career, Palm is fourth in school history in career scoring at 1,484 points. He ranks second in rebounding with 783, 17 behind all-time leader Jim Adams (1960-63). He also ranks third in blocks with 146, making him one of just two players in the top five in all three categories.

Junior guard Jason Burrell, who had a season-high 19 points in the loss to Seattle Pacific, is averaging 12.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and a team-high 4.8 assists a game, and is shooting 83.3 percent (55-of-66) on free throws.

Also in double figures is redshirt freshman guard Grant Dykstra, who is contributing 12.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists and is Western's leading 3-point shooter (26-of-73, 35.6 percent).

Senior forward Nehemiah Campbell, who has started the last 11 games, is averaging 8.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Senior Chris Stevens started in place of Tyree against Seattle Pacific, notching career-highs of 14 points and eight rebounds.

Leading the bench is freshman guard Ryan Diggs, who averages 9.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and a team-best 1.8 steals, third in the GNAC.

In national statistics through games of Feb. 5, the Vikings ranked 22nd in rebounding margin and 30th in scoring. They are currently averaging 81.5 points a game, shooting 47.0 percent from the field while holding opponents to 42.2 percent, and have an average rebound margin of 7.4 a game.

Western leads the GNAC in rebound margin and blocked shots (5.0), and is second in scoring margin (8.8).

UPCOMING GAMES:
Feb. 13 (Thu.) at University of Alaska Anchorage* (Anchorage, AK - 8 p.m. AT)
Feb. 15 (Sat.) at University of Alaska Fairbanks* (Fairbanks, AK - 8 p.m. AT)
Feb. 20 (Thu.) WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY* (CARVER GYM, 7 p.m.)
Feb. 22 (Sat.) HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY*@ (CARVER GYM, 7 p.m.)
*Great Northwest Athletic Conference counter
@broadcast on KBAI Radio (930 AM - Bellingham) and internet (wwuvikings.com)

THREE-DOT NOTES: The Vikings have averaged just 72.8 points in the last six games, 8.7 below their season average ... Western opponents are making a remarkable 76.3 percent of their free throws. That mark would lead the GNAC by a comfortable margin and would rank in the top 10 nationally in NCAA Division II ... Viking foes have shot 80.1 percent (155-of-191) at the free throw line over the last eight games, never being below 70.4 percent in any contest ... Burrell made 5-of-11 field goals against Seattle Pacific after a five-game stretch in which he hit just 27.9 percent (12-of-43) ... Dykstra has connected on just 25.0 percent (7-of-28) of his 3-point attempts over the last eight games after hitting 42.2 percent in his first 11 contests ... Palm, who has shot nearly 58 percent from the floor during his career, has made just 8-of-21 field goals (38.1 percent) in the last two games and grabbed just nine rebounds, less than half his season average ... Western has not shot better than 48.3 percent from the field in any of the last six games and has been under 36.0 in two of them. In the previous four contests, the Vikings had shot at least 57.9 percent, going over 60.0 percent twice ... Palm has had eight double-doubles (points and rebounds) this season ... Western extended its home court winning streak to 19, the second-longest in school history, before losing to Alaska Anchorage, 88-83, on Jan. 18. That also ended the Vikings' string of 21 conference home victories ... Tyree was named tourney MVP as Western won its own WWU/Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic with victories over BYU-Hawaii, 74-65, and Cal Poly Pomona, 68-54. Also picked to the all-tourney team were Palm and redshirt freshman guard Kyle Jackson ... Humboldt State was the near-unanimous preseason coaches poll pick to win the 2002-03 GNAC title, getting nine of 10 first-place votes and 108 points. Western was second (77), with Central Washington third (75) and Seattle Pacific fourth (74).

D-II PLAYOFFS EXPANDED: The NCAA Division II post-season playoff field has been expanded from 48 to 64 schools, with eight schools from each region qualifying. That means that even though the GNAC champion doesn't earn an "automatic" berth in the playoffs, it could conceivably have three or possibly four of its teams advance to the March tournament.

PALM NEARS CAREER REBOUND RECORD: Six-foot-10 senior center Mike Palm is nearing the school record for career rebounds, the oldest individual mark on the books. He currently has 783 rebounds, 17 short of the record (800) held by Jim Adams (1960-63).

Palm is one of just two players currently ranked among Western's career Top 5 in points, rebounds and blocked shots. Palm is second in rebounds, third in blocked shots at 146 and fourth in points at 1,484. The last Viking to achieve that was forward Harold Doyal (1991-95), who ranks among the top four in all three categories and now plays professionally in the first division in France.

During his four-year career, Palm is shooting 57.8 percent (536-of-927) from the floor and 82.8 percent (403-of-487) at the free throw line.

LAST SEASON: Western finished 21-6, winning its last nine games, and tied for the inaugural Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship with Humboldt State and Seattle Pacific at 15-3, but was denied a berth in the West Region of the NCAA Division II National Tournament after reaching the national semifinals in 2000-01.

RADIO BROADCASTS: Twelve Western games are being broadcast this season on KBAI Radio (930 AM) with Doug Lange handling the play-by-play, and either Jason Stiles or Mark Scholten providing the color commentary. They also can be heard on the internet at www.wwuvikings.com.

ON THE WEB: For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the Western Athletic web page at www.wwuvikings.com. Up-to-date league standings and statistics can be found on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference web page at www.gnacsports.com.

COACH JACKSON: Brad Jackson is in his 18th year and is the winningest coach in school history, both in total wins (331-197) and winning percentage (.627). He ranks among the top 30 active NCAA II coaches in victories. Two years ago, Jackson directed Western to a 27-4 record and the semifinals of the NCAA II National Championship, being named NABC/NCAA II West Region, Northwest small college and Pacific West Conference Coach of the Year. Five times named district/region Coach of the Year, Jackson has directed Western to 14 post-season playoff appearances, including district/region/conference championships and national tournament appearances in 1988, 1994 and 2001. He has had seven 20-win campaigns (1986-90, 1993-94, 2000-01, 2001-02).

PROBABLE WESTERN STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:
G Jason Burrell**, 6-1, Jr., Ontario, CA, 12.4 ppg, 4.8 apg, .833 FT Pct.
G Grant Dykstra, 6-4, R-Fr., Everson, WA/Lynden Christian, 12.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.6 apg
C Mike Palm***, 6-10, Sr., Puyallup,WA/Rogers, 17.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg, .561 FG Pct.
F Chris Stevens***, 6-9, Sr., Long Beach, CA/Long Beach Poly, 3.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, .600 FG Pct.
F Nehemiah Campbell***, 6-4, Sr., L.A., CA/Washington, 8.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg

G Ryan Diggs, 6-2, Fr., Victorville, CA/Silverado, 9.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg G Stefan Dickason, 6-1, Jr., Kent, WA/Kentridge, 7.4 ppg, .833 FT Pct. F Darrell Visser, 6-6, Fr., Lynden, WA, 3.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg G Kyle Jackson, 5-10, R-Fr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome, 4.6 ppg. .818 FT Pct.

INJ F Maurice Tyree*, 6-7, So., Sacramento, CA/Jesuit, 11.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .545 FG Pct. *letters

UPCOMING OPPONENT INFORMATION:

UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE: The Seawolves (10-10, 7-4) have won seven of their last 11 games, two of the losses being in overtime, after a 3-6 start. UAA is led by 6-6 junior forward Peter Bullock (19.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.5 spg, 1.3 bpg), a second-team GNAC all-star last season. Also back is 6-1 sophomore guard Mark Drake (11.5 ppg) and 6-4 senior forward Shane Bannarbie (7.8 ppg). Leading the newcomers for coach Charlie Bruns (10th year, 163-103) are 6-5 freshman guard Adam Fitt-Chappell (8.9 ppg), and two transfers from Otero JC (Colo.), 6-3 junior guard Scott Stevens (5.3 ppg, 3.1 apg) and 6-7 junior center Bob Austin (6.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg). The Seawolves were 9-18 last season, their first losing campaign in 19 years during which they dropped eight games by six or fewer points. Alaska Anchorage is shooting just 42.5 percent from the field. The series is tied at 2-2 after Alaska Anchorage won 88-83 at Bellingham on Jan. 18.

UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS: The Nanooks (15-5, 8-3, 10-0 home, Feb. 13 host Seattle Pacific) have won four of their last five games (defeated No.2 Humboldt State, 86-83, on Feb. 1) after a two-game losing streak following an 11-2 start in which they posted home wins over three NCAA I schools - Wisconsin-Green Bay (78-55), Nebraska (64-61) and Weber State (77-65). They are led by 6-0 sophomore guard Brad Oleson (18.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 spg, 3.1 apg, .531 FG Pct., .872 FT Pct.), a transfer from Peninsula CC where he earned first-team NWAACC all-star honors. Two other top transfers for coach Al Sokaitis (7th year, 80-101, 16th overall, 225-192) are 5-9 sophomore guard Chris Smith (11.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) from NCAA I Cal State Fullerton and 6-4 junior forward Marquis Revels (8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) from Mount San Jacinto JC (Calif.). Heading the returnees are 6-8 senior center Jason Williams (13.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg) and 6-2 senior guard Steve Towne (10.4 ppg). UAF, which was 4-23 last season, is outscoring its opponents by 7.7 points per game, but is being outrebounded by an average of 3.2 per contest. The Nanooks are shooting just 43.0 percent from the field, but are making 74.0 percent of their free throws. Western holds a 9-2 series advantage, winning 97-79 at Bellingham on Jan. 16.

WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY: The Wolves (11-9, 4-7, Feb. 13 host Saint Martin's, Feb. 15 host Central Washington), who finished 10-17 last season, have lost four of six games after a 9-5 start. WOU has two of the top 25 scorers in NCAA II - 6-5 sophomore forward Sean Kelly (22.6 ppg-12th nat., 7.1 rpg, .425 3-pt. Pct), a transfer from Ricks College (Id.), and second-team all-GNAC 6-5 junior guard Robert Day (21.5 ppg-24th nat., 5.7 rpg). Day scored a personal-best 41 points against Western last year. Another top returnee is 6-7 senior center Kevin Broderick-Kartye (6.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Two talented newcomers are 6-0 junior guard Chris Olson (6.7 ppg), a second-team NWAACC all-star from Lane CC (Ore.), and 6-0 freshman guard Kevin Tyner (7.2 ppg, 5.5 apg). In his first year as coach is Tim Hills (26th year overall). Hills coached the WOU women the last two seasons (31-23) after directing the Western Baptist men for 23 years (394-360). WOU ranks 11th nationally in made 3-pointers, averaging 9.7 per game. Western holds 24-8 series advantage, winning, 68-63, at Monmouth, Ore., on Jan. 25.

HUMBOLDT STATE UNIVERSITY: The Lumberjacks (18-2, 9-2, Feb. 13 host Central Washington, Feb. 15 host Saint Martin's, Feb. 20 at Seattle Pacific), ranked No.4 nationally and No.2 in the West Region, have won five of their last seven games after a 13-0 start. The top players back from last year's 25-4 team that tied for the GNAC title and reached the West Regional title game are 6-6 junior forward Austin Nichols (21.6 ppg-16th nat., 4.8 rpg, .552 FG Pct., .835 FT Pct.), an honorable mention DII Bulletin All-American, and 6-6 junior forward Fred Hooks (16.9 ppg, 12.0 rpg-5th nat., .539 FG Pct., 1.5 bpg), the GNAC Player of the Year who was a third-team Daktronics All-American and a fourth-team DII Bulletin All-American. Two other returning standouts for coach Tom Wood (22nd year, 309-286) are 6-6 junior center Trey Shannon (8.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and 5-8 senior guard Jeremy Robinson (6.7 ppg, 3.9 apg). A big addition is 6-4 junior guard Kaylin Thornton (8.2 ppg), a transfer from Columbia College where he was MVP of the Central Valley Conference. After missing the first 12 games because of a herniated disc, 6-2 junior guard Mark White (8.0 ppg, 3.7 apg), who set a school record for assists last season, played in seven contests before breaking a bone in his foot. HSU ranks 14th nationally in scoring margin (14.6), 17th in scoring (84.2), and 19th in field goal percentage (48.5). The Lumberjacks lead the league in scoring offense, scoring defense (69.6), scoring margin and assists (18.3). Western holds a 7-5 series edge, losing, 76-69, at Arcata, Calif., on Jan. 23.

GAME SUMMARIES:

Feb. 8 - Seattle Pacific 80, WESTERN 72 at Bellingham, WA Forward Yusef Aziz scored 19 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, leading Seattle Pacific to an 80-72 victory over Western in a GNAC game at Carver Gym. The Vikings were led by Burrell, who had 19 points, 17 in the second half. Dykstra added 17 points. Seattle Pacific, ranked No.5 in the West Region of NCAA Division II, improved to 12-8 overall, 8-2 in the GNAC, with its fifth consecutive victory. Center Jason Chivers added 19 points for the Falcons. The Vikings led by nine, 48-39, with 14 minutes left, and were still up by seven, 56-49, with 10 minutes to play, but the Falcons went on an 8-2 run to narrow the margin to one, 58-57, with 8:37 left. Seattle Pacific eventually took control of the game with an 11-5 run in which it scored on five straight possessions. Two free throws by Aziz tied the score at 59-59 with 5:40 left to start the run, which was capped by a Maurice Cato 3-pointer that put the Falcons up 68-64 with 3:18 left. Seattle Pacific never led by less than four the rest of the way. Seattle Pacific was 35-of-40 (88.0 percent) on free throws, closing the game out by going 10-of-12 in the final 1:47. Aziz, who entered the game hitting 64.4 percent from the line, was 12-of-12. He was also 8-of-12 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. The first half featured five lead changes and six ties, with Western having the biggest lead of the period at five points on two occasions in the last five minutes. The game was tied, 31-31, at halftime, one of 10 ties in the game in all. Stevens, making his first start for Western since the third game of the season and just the fifth of his career, had career highs of 14 points and eight rebounds for the Vikings, hitting 6-of-8 shots from the field. Palm added 12 points. Western had a 38-27 edge in rebounds, but shot only 41.9 percent (26-of-62) from the field and 61.9 percent (13-of-21) on free throws.