WWU is No.1 seed and host of NCAA II West Regional

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Head Coach Brad Jackson
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Head Coach Brad Jackson
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

March 6, 2012

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Playing host to the NCAA Division II West Regional for the third time in four seasons, the Western Washington University men's basketball team faces No.8 seed Grand Canyon University in an opening-round game Friday, March 9 (7:30 p.m.) at Sam Carver Gymnasium.

That contest can be heard live on KBAI Radio (930 AM - www.930kbai.com) with Doug Lange handling play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing color commentary. It also can be viewed on the internet at http://wwu.nmtvsports.com and live stats are available at http://www.gnacsports.com/livestats.htm. Broadcasts of the games Saturday and Monday will be on KPUG Radio (1170 AM - www.kpug1170.com).

The Vikings, ranked No.12 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches/NCAA II Top 25 Poll, earned the No.1 seed and the right to host the regional by posting a 25-5 record. They held onto the top spot in the West despite falling to Montana State Billings, 82-78, on Friday in the semifinals of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament at Lacey. WWU won the GNAC regular-season title with a 16-2 record.

"We're very pleased and excited," said WWU coach Brad Jackson (27th year), whose Vikings are 14-1 at home this season. "First of all, to be in the tournament is a great accomplishment, but also to be playing at home. We look forward to having our crowd be a big part of the tournament."

The winner of Friday's game will face either No.4 seed Humboldt State or No. 5 seed Chico State in a semifinal contest Saturday (7 p.m.). The Lumberjacks and Wildcats meet Friday at 5:30 p.m.

On the other side of the bracket Friday, No.2 seed Alaska Anchorage faces No.7 seed Montana State Billings at 2:30 p.m. in a rematch of the GNAC championship game won by MSUB, 74-70; and No.3 seed Seattle Pacific faces No.6 seed Dixie State at 12:30 p.m.

Saturday's semifinal winners play in Monday's title game (7 p.m.), with the champion advancing to the NCAA II Elite Eight at Highland Heights, Ky.

"I'm proud of our team," said Jackson. "We thought toward the end of the season that we had an opportunity to host the regional, and we're looking forward to working hard this week and being ready to go."

This is WWU's sixth regional appearance. Remarkably, the Vikings are hosting for the fifth time. They hosted a six-team regional in 2001, and, after the expansion of the NCAA II tournament, hosted eight-team regionals in 2005 and 2009. They also hosted a sub-regional as the No.2 seed in the West in 2010, playing on the road only in 2006.

WWU won the West Region in 2001 and advanced to the national semifinals. The Vikings also reached the regional final in 2006.

Grand Canyon is 19-7 and riding a nine-game winning streak. Guard Kyle Speed averages 13.6 points and 3.3 assists for the Antelopes. Also scoring in double figures are center Braylon Pickrel (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds) and guard Jerome Garrison (10.2 points).

"We've played them in the past," said Jackson. "They're a well-coached team with a very aggressive style and a lot of enthusiasm."

The schools last met in the 2009-10 season, when they played three times, the Vikings winning all three matchups.

Tickets for the regional tournament go on sale Tuesday at 11 a.m. and can be purchased by calling 360-650-2583. Reserved tickets are $12, general admission $8, and students, youth and seniors with ID are $5, with tickets good all day for multiple-game dates.

WWU, which was No.1 in the West Region in all three ratings prior to Sunday's selection show, has had winning streaks of nine and 10 games this season. The Vikings have won five of six games against top 25-rated NCAA II teams, two each over Alaska Anchorage and Seattle Pacific. They are 7-2 in games decided by five or less points.

WWU won its first eight GNAC road games, a league record, finishing 8-1 in a bid to become the first team in the league's 11-year history to go unbeaten on the road during the regular season.

The Vikings are ranked 13th nationally among NCAA II schools in scoring offense (82.0 avg.), 18th in three-point percentage (39.3 220-of-560), and 21st in field-goal percentage (48.8, 887-of-1816). They lead the GNAC in steals (8.9), and are second in scoring offense, field-goal shooting, three-point percentage and blocked shots (4.1).

WWU's 20-win season is its third in the last four years and the 12th for the Vikings in Brad Jackson's 27 seasons as head coach. With 512 victories, Jackson ranks third among the winningest collegiate coaches in the state of Washington.

Jackson was named GNAC Coach of the Year for the third time.

2012 NCAA DIVISION II WEST REGIONAL

host Western Washington University

Sam Carver Gymnasium - Bellingham, Wash.

March 9 (Fri.)
Game #1 - No.3 Seattle Pacific (21-7) vs. No.6 Dixie State (20-6) - 12:30 p.m.

Game #2 - No.2 Alaska Anchorage (22-6) vs. No.7 Montana State Billings (18-11) - 2:30 p.m.

Game #3 - No.4 Humboldt State (22-7) vs. No.5 Chico State (24-7) - 5:30 p.m.

Game #4 - No.1 seed Western Washington (25-5) vs. No.8 Grand Canyon (19-7) - 7:30 p.m.

March 10 (Sat.)

Game #5 - Winner Game #1 vs. Winner Game #2 - 5 p.m.

Game #6 - Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #4 - 7 p.m.

March 12 (Mon.)

Game #7 - Winner Game #5 vs. Winner Game #6 - 7 p.m.

Home team is highest seed in each game

NCAA II ELITE EIGHT

March 21-22, 24 (Wed., Thu., Sat.)
at Highland Heights, Kentucky (The Bank of Kentucky Center)
Host Northern Kentucky University

WWU NCAA II APPEARANCES:

2001
West Regional at Bellingham, Wash. (host WWU)
Defeated Cal State Bakersfield, 95-86 in overtime, in semifinals
Defeated Cal State San Bernardino, 58-55, in final

Elite Eight at Bakersfield, Calif. (host Cal State Bakersfield) Defeated Queens, 89-85, in quarterfinals Lost to Washburn, 96-90, in semifinals

2005 West Regional at Bellingham, Wash. (host WWU) Defeated Brigham Young-Hawaii, 80-69, in first round Lost to Alaska Fairbanks, 88-66, in semifinals

2006 West Regional at Seattle, Wash. (host Seattle Pacific) Defeated Humboldt State, 100-86, in first round Defeated Chaminade, 101-91, in semifinals Lost to Seattle Pacific, 81-77, in final

2009 West Sub-Regional at Bellingham, Wash. (host WWU) Lost to Seattle Pacific, 82-77, in first round

2010 West Regional at Bellingham, Wash. (host WWU) Defeated Central Washington, 84-70, in first round Lost to Cal Poly Pomona, 76-75 in OT, in semifinals

BLANCHE: Senior forward Rory Blanche, a unanimous first-team GNAC all-star, paces the Vikings in both points and rebounds with respective per game averages of 16.3 and 7.2. He is second in the GNAC (16th nationally) in field-goal shooting at 59.4 percent (209-of-352), fifth in scoring and offensive rebounds (2.9) and eighth in rebounds.

Blanche, who is 14th all-time in WWU career scoring with 1,190 points (needs 61 to move into tie for 13th), has had seven double-doubles in points and rebounds this season and has scored double-figure points in 44 of his last 48 games. He scored a career-high 30 points in a 77-67 win at Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 16.

Blanche was a first-team CoSIDA Capital One NCAA II Academic All-American, just the third Viking student-athlete in any sport to receive that honor, and received GNAC Academic all-star honors for the third straight season.

ALLEN: Junior guard John Allen, who was a second-team all-league pick for the second straight year, is averaging 14.4 points and ranks ninth nationally and leads the league in free throw percentage at 90.0 (81-of-90). He also is fourth in the GNAC in steals (2.1), sixth in three-point accuracy (43.8, 67-of-153) and seventh in three-point makes (2.2).

REST OF FIRST FIVE: Sophomore guard Richard Woodworth, who is averaging 10.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists, leads the conference in three-point accuracy at 50.0 percent (33-of-66). Receiving all-league honorable mention, he ranks eighth in both free throw percentage (82.1, 69-of-84) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.1 to 1.7).

Senior forward Zach Henifin is averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. He ranks fifth among conference leaders in steals (1.8).

Rounding out the first five is junior center Chris Mitchell, who is averaging 7.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. He ranks 11th in the league in three-point shooting at 41.9 percent (31-of-74).

Mitchell was a repeat selection on the GNAC Academic all-star team.

BENCH: Top players off the bench have been junior guard Rico Wilkins (7.7 ppg), junior forward Paul Jones (8.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), who is fifth in the league in free-throw shooting (87.7 percent, 57-of-65); senior center Dan Young (2.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg), who is fifth among GNAC leaders in blocks (1.1); and sophomore guard Dane Thorpe (2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg).

VIKING NOTES: In January, Allen became the first player in GNAC history to earn outright Player of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks ... Allen had 32 points, the most by a Viking this season, on 12-of-14 field-goal shooting in a 99-86 win over Central Washington on Jan. 18 before a regional TV audience and 2,012 fans ... WWU has made 10 or more treys seven times this season with a high of 14 against Rollins on Dec. 15. The Vikings tied a school record for three-point percentage in a game at 66.7, making 12-of-18 at Western Oregon on Feb. 2.

Blanche has 1,190 points and 512 rebounds during his four-year career, and is hitting 60.2 percent (507-of-842, ranks fourth in GNAC history) from the field ... Henifin was named GNAC Player of the Week for his all-tournament performance at the Great Western Shootout and Woodworth earned the same honor in leading WWU's home sweep of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks ... Both Allen and Blanche were all-tournament picks at the Disney West Coast Classic ... In mid-January, the Vikings became just the second school in GNAC history to sweep an Alaskan road trip two straight years. In all, they have a conference best four sweeps in the 49th state ... WWU lost senior forward Shedrick Nelson, a top reserve, for the season against Notre Dame de Namur on Nov. 11 when he tore both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee near the end of the game.

Blanche was named a first-team CoSIDA Capital One NCAA II Academic All-American. He also was a first-team academic all-district honoree and a GNAC Academic all-star for the third time. Blanche is a manufacturing engineering technology major maintaining a 3.74 grade point average (4.0 scale) ... Mitchell was a repeat selection as a GNAC Academic all-star. He is a physical education major with a 3.43 GPA.

WWU VERSUS TOP 25 TEAMS:

Nov. 21 defeated No.3 BYU-Hawaii, 88-69 - Bellingham
Dec. 3 defeated No.19 Seattle Pacific, 79-71 - Seattle
Dec. 15 defeated No.10 Rollins FL, 80-61 - Las Vegas, NV
Dec. 16 lost to No.18 Alabama Huntsville, 77-74 - Las Vegas, NV
Feb. 9 defeated No.17 Alaska Anchorage, 59-50 - Bellingham
Feb. 23 defeated No.24 Seattle Pacific, 72-70 - Bellingham

COACH JACKSON: Brad Jackson is in his 27th season, the longest tenure of any coach in WWU history in any sport. He is the most successful men's basketball coach in school history, both in total wins (512-279) and winning percentage (.648). Prior to this season, Jackson ranked No.13 among active NCAA II coaches in victories.

Jackson has directed the Vikings to 20 post-season appearances and 12 20-win seasons during his tenure. WWU reached the regional semifinals in 2010, losing 76-75 in overtime to eventual national champion Cal Poly Pomona.

The Jackson-led Vikings also have gotten to the NCAA II tournament in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2009. In 2001, they finished 27-4, won the regional title and reached the national semifinals, Jackson being named NABC/NCAA II West Region, Northwest small college and Pacific West Conference Coach of the Year.

JACKSON MILESTONE VICTORIES:

No.1 - Nov. 23, 1985 - WWU 89, British Columbia 78 - Victoria, B.C.
No. 100 - Jan. 16, 1990 - WWU 73, Seattle U. 63 - Seattle, WA
No. 200 - Feb. 16, 1995 - WWU 71, Puget Sound 63 - Tacoma, WA
No. 276 - Jan. 4, 2001 - WWU 81, Chaminade 77 - Honolulu, HI
(becomes school's all-time victory leader in men's basketball)
No. 300 - Nov. 23, 2001 - WWU 98, Southern Colorado 70 - Bellingham
No. 400 - Nov. 18, 2006 - WWU 67, Cal State L.A. 66 - Seattle, WA
No. 412 - Nov. 23, 2007 - WWU 85, Northwest 69 - Bellingham
(becomes school's all-time win leader for all sports)
No. 450 - Nov. 21, 2009 - WWU 87, Dominican CA 72 - Seattle, WA
No. 500 - Jan. 5, 2012 - WWU 76, Saint Martin's 71 - Bellingham

JACKSON'S 500TH: The Vikings' win over Saint Martin's on Jan. 5 was the 500th career victory for WWU coach Brad Jackson (current total 512), who became just the fifth four-year college hoop mentor in the state of Washington to reach that milestone and the 40th in NCAA II men's history. The previous four coaches in the state to accumulate 500 wins were Marv Harshman (Pacific Lutheran, Washington State, Washington) 637, Dean Nicholson (Central Washington) 620, Hec Edmundson (Washington) 508 and Leo Nicholson (Central Washington) 505.

500-WIN FOUR-YEAR COLLEGIATE COACHES IN STATE OF WASHINGTON:

637 - Marv Harshman (Pacific Lutheran, Washington State, Washington)
620 - Dean Nicholson (Central Washington)
512 - Brad Jackson (Western Washington)
508 - Hec Edmundson (Washington)
505 - Leo Nicholson (Central Washington)

2010-11 RECAP: WWU returns four starters from last year's squad that finished 16-11 and reached the first round of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament. Allen earned second-team GNAC all-star honors, averaging 14.3 points a game, including 43 in a victory over Simon Fraser, the second highest point total ever by a WWU player and a school record at Carver Gym. The Washington State transfer also led WWU in assists (4.1) and steals (1.7), and shot 91.5 percent at the free-throw line (65-of-71), which ranked second nationally. Blanche received honorable mention all-GNAC recognition, averaging 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 62.8 percent from the field to rank 14th nationally.

GNAC COACHES TAB VIKINGS THIRD: WWU was picked to finish third in the preseason GNAC coaches poll. Alaska Anchorage, which won its only GNAC title in 2008 when it advanced to the NCAA II national semifinals, edged Seattle Pacific, 95-94. Both the Seawolves and Falcons, who won GNAC titles in 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2010 and have qualified for the NCAA II post-season in seven consecutive seasons, each received four first-place votes. Three-time conference champion WWU (2002, 2005, 2009) got a pair of first-place votes and placed third. Defending champion Central Washington was fourth.

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

ON THE WEB: All Viking home games are being video streamed live and are available free at http://wwu.nmtvsports.com. For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the WWU Athletics 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.pennatlantic.com.

PROBABLE WESTERN STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:

G John Allen, 6-0, *Jr., Brier/Mountlake Terrace/Washington State
G Richard Woodworth, 6-3, **Jr., Bellevue/Newport
C Chris Mitchell, 6-8, **Jr., Everson/Nooksack Valley
F Zach Henifin, 6-5, *Sr., Bellingham/Whatcom CC
F Rory Blanche, 6-6, ***Sr., Ashland, OR/Ashland

F Paul Jones, 6-4, JC-Jr., Kent/Kent-Meridian/Whatcom CC G Rico Wilkins, 6-0, Jr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto/Yakima Valley CC C Dan Young, 6-10, *Sr., Federal Way/Lakewood/Highline CC G Dane Thorpe, 6-3, *So, Bellingham/Sehome G Cameron Severson, 6-5, Jr., Petersburg, AK/Petersburg *letters

CARVER GYM CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY: Dedicated on March 30, 1962, WWU's Sam Carver Gymnasium is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. It is named for Sanford E. Carver, a NAIA Hall of Famer who was Western's first director of athletics and the chairman of the physical education department from 1914-55. Carver Gym was an addition to the existing physical education facility. It added 54,233 square feet of floor space at a cost of $1.04 million. The most significant addition was the present main gymnasium. The facility opened in time for the 1961-62 basketball season, although it wasn't named for Carver until the dedication ceremony the following spring. Dr. James L. Jarrett, then Western's president, and Dr. E.V. Pullias, a professor at the University of Southern California, were the main speakers at the gathering. Basketball has been one of the primary activities at Carver Gym. The Seattle Pacific men were Western's opponent in the first game played on the new floor on Dec. 6, 1961. The Viking men have racked up an impressive record during their time in the building, going 498-157 (76.1 percent) in 50 years.

RECENT GAME SUMMARY:

March 2 - Montana State Billings 82, WWU 78 at Lacey - GNAC semifinal

Forward Robert Mayes scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half, including a trio of three-point plays during a crucial four-minute stretch, as No.5-seed Montana State Billings upset top-seeded WWU, 82-78, in a semifinal round contest of the GNAC Tournament at Marcus Pavilion on the Saint Martin's University campus. The Vikings were led by Rico Wilkins, who came off the bench with 15 points, 11 in the first half. MSUB got a game-high 21 points from guard Antoine Proctor and backcourt mate Jaxon Myaer added 16. Zach Henifin, who finished with 12 points before fouling out with 3:30 to play, gave WWU its only second-half lead, 59-58, with 10 minutes remaining when he intentionally threw an in-bounds pass off a MSUB defender, grabbed the deflection and scored a layup. But then Mayes, who also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, took over as he scored nine points, all on three-point plays, during an 11-5 run that gave MSUB a 69-65 lead with 6:18 to go. The Yellowjackets upped that advantage to eight, 75-67, at 3:07. WWU got within two, 78-76, on a three-pointer by Chris Mitchell with 1:06 left and again, 80-78, on two free throws by Paul Jones with 44 seconds to go. The Vikings' Richard Woodworth then made a steal at mid-court, but turned it over in traffic driving to the basket. MSUB's David Arnold sealed it by hitting two free throws with nine seconds remaining. WWU got off to a slow start as it trailed 10-1 after the first five minutes, missing its first eight shots and turning the ball over three times. With Wilkins providing the spark, the Vikings led by as many as five points, 24-19, with 8:15 left in the opening period. MSUB slowly came back to lead by five twice in the final two minutes and by three, 42-39, at halftime. The Yellowjackets opened the second half with an 11-4 run for the game's biggest lead of 12 points, 55-43, with 16 minutes left. WWU fought back with a 16-3 charge over the next six minutes for its only lead of the final half. Jones had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Vikings, who had a 41-37 advantage on the boards, and Woodworth contributed 10 points.

07/03/2014

Heart of the Game