No.2 seed WWU meets No.1 SPU for GNAC title on Saturday

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Jeffrey Parker
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Jeffrey Parker
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

March 7, 2014

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Looking for its first title in the four-year history of the event, No.2 seed Western Washington University meets top seed Seattle Pacific University in the championship game of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament on Saturday (5:15 p.m.) at Marcus Pavilion on the campus of host Saint Martin's University in Lacey.

The game can be heard on KBAI Radio (930 AM - kbai930.com) with Doug Lange calling the action. A video stream and live stats are available at wwuvikings.com.

It is the second straight year that WWU has met SPU in the GNAC title contest. The Falcons won 72-70 in 2013 on a 28-foot 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left.

The Vikings, 20-7 overall and the conference regular-season runner-up at 13-5, reached the championship game with a dominating 73-52 semifinal win on Thursday over No.5 seed Alaska Fairbanks.

The GNAC tournament champion earns an automatic berth at the NCAA Division II West Regional on March 14-15, 17 at a site to be determined.

With all the upsets going on in the other West Region conference tournaments, WWU may need a win over SPU to assure itself a third straight trip to regionals. The Vikings were No.7 in this week's West Regional ranking prior to their win over Alaska Fairbanks. The selection show can be seen Sunday at 7:30 p.m. by going to www.ncaa.com.

In each of the last two years, WWU has taken NCAA II West Regional titles and won 31 games, capturing the national championship in 2012 and reaching the national semifinals in 2013.

Despite the regional and national success, the Vikings are 2-3 in GNAC tourney action. Their other victory came last year, 61-43 over Alaska Fairbanks, in the semifinals.

In 2011, WWU lost a first-round contest, 77-75, to Northwest Nazarene, and in 2012, dropped a semifinal decision, 72-68, to Montana State Billings. Thus, the Vikings' three losses have been by a total of eight points.

Thursday's win over Alaska Fairbanks gave WWU its third straight 20-win season and Tony Dominguez became the first coach in school history to reach the 20-win plateau in each of his first two seasons.

The Vikings have won 10 of their last 13 games. The three losses during that stretch have been by one point in overtime and twice by three points.

WWU began its season with eight straight home victories, the biggest a 72-69 win over nationally No.1 Metro State on Nov. 30, before losing four of its next six contests.

Four of WWU's seven losses this season have been to teams currently ranked among the top 25 nationally. They were to No.5 Tarleton State, No.12 Cal State San Bernardino and twice to No. 18 Seattle Pacific.

Cal State San Bernardino topped Wednesday's West Regional rating. Cal Poly Pomona was No.2, Cal Baptist No.3, Seattle Pacific No.4, Dixie State No.5, Chico State No.6, WWU No.7, Dominican No.8, Cal State Stanislaus No.9 and San Francisco State No.10.

NCAA II AND GNAC STATS: WWU ranks sixth nationally among NCAA II schools in blocked shots per game at 5.5 and is fifth in total blocks with 149.

The Vikings are 13th in 3-point field-goal percentage defense at 29.8, and 17th in both scoring offense at 86.7 and field-goal percentage at 49.7.

WWU tops the GNAC in scoring offense (86.7), 3-point percentage defense (29.8), blocks (5.5) and offensive rebounds (13.5).

WOODWORTH STATUS INDEFINITE: Senior guard Richard Woodworth, a first-team GNAC all-star, suffered a right leg quad contusion in Thursday's semifinal win over Alaska Fairbanks and his status for Saturday is indefinite. Earlier this season, Woodworth missed his only game (Simon Fraser on Jan. 11) after suffering a sprained left ankle early in the second half of a 65-61 loss at Alaska Fairbanks on Jan. 4.

Over the previous eight games, Woodworth has averaged 20.4 points and 5.0 assists, shooting 45.0 percent (18-of-40) from 3-point range and 82.8 percent (48-of-58) at the free throw line.

On the season, Woodworth is averaging 17.0 points per game and is shooting a team-best 82.7 percent (124-of-150) at the free throw line as well as 41.5 percent (39-of-94) from 3-point range. He scored a career-high 33 points at Simon Fraser on Feb. 8.

Woodworth became the 24th Viking to reach 1,000 points in a career while scoring 24 against Alaska Anchorage on Jan. 2. His current point total of 1,255 ranks 15th and he is 13th in assists at 339.

Woodworth was named to the national all-tournament team in 2012 when WWU won the NCAA II national championship and was the West Regional Most Outstanding Player in 2013 when the Vikings reached the national semifinals.

Woodworth hit a buzzer beater from beyond half court in a dramatic 94-91 win over arch-rival Central Washington on Feb. 22 (Video of shot has received nearly 32,000 hits on YouTube) . He scored the Vikings' last 13 points, nine in the final 20 seconds, as they rallied from a six-point deficit with 1:05 to go.

BRAGG'IN RIGHTS: Senior center Austin Bragg, a first-team GNAC all-star, ranks among the top four in the GNAC in five categories. He leads in rebounds at 8.9 per game, while being second in both blocks at 1.8 and offensive rebounds at 3.3, and fourth in both field-goal percentage at 59.7 (169-of-283) and scoring at 17.1.

On Feb. 1 in a 99-76 home victory over Alaska Anchorage, Bragg had the second triple-double in school history and only the third in GNAC history, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He tops the GNAC in double-doubles this season with 11 after leading the conference last year with eight.

Bragg has earned conference POW honors twice this season and three times during his two-year career at WWU after transferring from Clark CC. His first POW honor this season was when he had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in a win over nationally No.1-ranked Metro State on Nov. 30, and his second award came after the Vikings swept a two-game home stand with Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage.

Bragg has scored double-figure points in 25 games this season. In WWU's win over Central Washington on Feb. 22, he scored a career-high 32 points. On Jan. 11, Bragg had 30 points and a career-high 17 rebounds against Simon Fraser.

PURE PARKER: Redshirt freshman forward Jeffrey Parker has averaged 17.8 points over the last nine games. During that span, he has shot 53.2 percent (59-of-111) from the field, including 51.0 percent (26-of-51) from 3- point range.

Parker has scored double-figure points in 15 games, with a high of 25 against Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 20. His top rebounding effort was 10 at Montana State Billings on Feb. 13.

On the season, Parker is averaging 11.9 points and hitting 43.3 percent (55-of-127) from beyond the arc. He had a game-high 21 points, making 5-of-6 3-point attempts, and grabbed nine rebounds in WWU's 73-52 win over Alaska Fairbanks on Thursday.

TURNER TERRIFIC: Junior forward Anye Turner ranks third among GNAC leaders in blocks at 1.5 per game, sixth in rebounds at 7.6, and 10th in field-goal shooting at 55.2 (85-of-154).

On the season, he is averaging 8.8 points and has had four double-doubles. Turner grabbed 20 rebounds in a win over Thompson Rivers on Dec. 17, tying the most by a WWU player since 2003 and five short of the school record.

POINT MAN HARRIS, JR: Senior point guard Robert Harris, Jr., has scored double figures in eight of his last 12 games and 15 times overall this season after transferring from NCAA I Idaho.

NABC TOP 25 POLL: After a three-week absence, WWU returned to the NABC/NCAA II Top 25 Poll on Feb.11 at No.24, but has not been listed since then. On Jan. 21, WWU fell out of the ranking for the first time since Jan. 10, 2012. That snapped a school-record streak of 31national poll appearances.

UPCOMING GAMES:

GNAC Tournament - Marcus Pavilion - Lacey, WA
(Host Saint Martin's University)

Wednesday, March 5

Game 1 #3 Alaska Fairbanks 69 vs. #6 Montana State Billings (12-15) 59

Game 2 #4 Alaska Anchorage (17-13) 88 vs. #5 Western Oregon 94

Thursday, March 6

Game 3 #2 Western Washington 73 vs. Alaska Fairbanks (18-10) 52

Game 4 #1 Seattle Pacific 73 vs. Western Oregon (18-12) 57

Saturday, March 8

Game 5 Western Washington (20-7) vs. Seattle Pacific (25-5) - 5:15 p.m.#

NCAA Division II West Regional(Site to be determined), March 14-15, 17

*Great Northwest Athletic Conference contest #broadcast on KBAI Radio (930 AM) and on internet at wwuvikings.com %broadcast on KPUG Radio (1170 AM) and on internet at wwuvikings.com

WWU AT GNAC TOURNAMENT:

2011
Lost to Northwest Nazarene, 77-75
2012
Lost to Montana State Billings, 72-68
2013
Defeated Alaska Fairbanks, 61-43
Lost to Seattle Pacific, 72-70
2014
Defeated Alaska Fairbanks, 73-52

SEATTLE PACIFIC: The Falcons, who have made nine straight NCAA tournament appearances, the longest current string of any Division II school, are ranked No.18 nationally, 25-5 overall and won the regular-season GNAC crown at 15-3. They lead the GNAC in field goal shooting (50.7 percent, 9th nationally) and 3-point accuracy (43.0, 2nd nationally). SPU, which has won 14 of its last 15 games, is led by 2013-14 GNAC Player of the Year 6-2 senior guard David Downs (20.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 50.4 FG Pct., 88.0 FT Pct., 46.6 3-pt. Pct., 75-of-161, 8th nationally), 6-4 junior guard Riley Stockton (8.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.4 spg), and first-team GNAC all-star 6-8 senior forward Patrick Simon (16.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 53.4 3-pt. Pct., 79-of-148, 1st nationally). Two other solid returnees are 6-8 junior center Cory Hutsen (10.8 ppg, 52.2 FG Pct.) and 6-5 sophomore forward Mitch Penner (9.1 ppg, 56.2 FG Pct.). A top newcomer for GNAC Coach of the Year Ryan Looney (5th year, 117-33; 10th overall, 212-88) has been 6-5 junior forward Matt Borton (7.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), a transfer from NCAA I Idaho. Last year, SPU finished 27-4, won the GNAC Tournament title and reached the West Regional final for the second straight season where it again lost to WWU. WWU trails 79-51 in the series, losing both meetings this season. SPU won 76-60 at Bellingham on Jan. 15, snapping the Vikings' school-record 36-game home court winning streak, and prevailed 91-88 on Feb. 15 at Seattle. SPU was the preseason favorite of the GNAC coaches and ranked No.1 nationally in The Sporting News pre-season ranking and No.3 in the Division II Bulletin pre-season rating.

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS TO DATE:

Nov. 19 - Tied school record with 19-point, second-half comeback in 80-74 win over BYU Hawaii.

Nov. 30 - Defeated nationally No.1-ranked Metro State, 72-69, a program first over a top-ranked opponent.

Dec. 5 - Woodworth hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining as WWU began GNAC play with a 67-66 win over Western Oregon

Dec. 14 - School record set for combined points with 228 in 140-88 win over Multnomah. WWU fell one short of school record for most points in a game (141-52 vs. Northwest on Feb. 3, 1989, and just shy of mark for best field-goal percentage (66.7, 58-87), set on Jan. 3, 1989 (69.8 vs. Grace IN)

Dec. 17 - Turner grabbed 20 rebounds, most by a Viking player since 2003, and five shy of the school record in 99-74 victory over Thompson Rivers BC.

Jan. 2 - Woodworth reaches 1,000-point mark in career scoring with 24 points and Bragg had game highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds in 104-89 win at Alaska Anchorage.

Jan. 11 - Bragg and Turner combined for 52 points, 32 rebounds and five blocked shots in 82-69 win over Simon Fraser.

Jan. 30 - WWU defeats Alaska Fairbanks, 53-51, the fewest points by the Vikings in a win since a 53-47 victory over Lewis-Clark State on Feb. 22, 1983, and a 47-43 triumph over Montana Tech on Jan. 2, 1981.

Feb. 1 - Bragg posted just the second triple-double (13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) in school history and WWU made 16-of-27 3-pointers (59.3 percent) in a 99-76 win over Alaska Anchorage.

Feb. 8 - Woodworth scored a career-high 33 points in an 84-83 win at Simon Fraser.

Feb. 22 - Woodworth scored WWU's last 13 points, eight in the final 20 seconds capped by a buzzer-beating shot from just beyond half court as the Vikings rallied from a six-point deficit with 1:05 remaining for a dramatic 94-91 win over arch-rival Central Washington on Senior Night at Carver Gym. Bragg had a career-high 32 points for WWU.

THREE-DOT NOTES: The Vikings are shooting 67.9 percent (495-of-729) at the free-throw line this season, the only team in the GNAC under 70 percent ... WWU's 53 points scored against Alaska Fairbanks (53-51) on Jan. 20 were the fewest by the Vikings in a win since a 53-47 victory over Lewis-Clark State on Feb. 22, 1983; and a 47-43 triumph over Montana Tech on Jan. 2, 1981... WWU finished 14-1 at home this season, and has won 41 of its last 42 games at Carver Gym. The Vikings had a school-record 36-game home win streak snapped by Seattle Pacific, 76-60, on Jan. 15. Their biggest win at Carver Gym this season was 72-69 over then No.1-ranked Metro State CO on Nov. 30 ... WWU was named the GNAC Team of the Week for Nov. 24-30 with a 72-69 win over top-ranked Metro State, and Jan. 26-Feb. 1 for a home sweep of Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage.

INJURIES: Anye Turner sat out the Montana State Billings game on Feb. 13 because of a dislocated big toe suffered in an 84-83 win at Simon Fraser on Feb. 8. Joey Schreiber returned to action versus Seattle Pacific on Feb.15 after missing eight games with facial fractures suffered in an 82-69 home win over Simon Fraser on Jan. 11. He had started 11 of 13 games prior to that injury.

UNMATCHED SUCCESS: WWU won the NCAA II national championship in 2012 and reached the national semifinals in 2013, posting back-to-back 31-win seasons. The Vikings have captured the last two regular-season GNAC titles, winning 33 of 36 conference games during that span. Last season, they won their first 24 games overall and finished 17-1 in league play, the best record in GNAC history.

SEEK THIRD STRAIGHT WEST REGIONAL TITLE: WWU is looking to become the first team since 1994 to win three straight West Regional titles, Cal State Bakersfield completing a five-year string that season. The only other team to win three consecutive West Region championships was UC Riverside from 1973 to 1975.

PRE-SEASON ACCOLADES: Bragg and Woodworth were pre-season GNAC all-conference picks ... WWU ranked ninth in The Sporting News Pre-season NCAA II Top 10, No.10 in the NABC Pre-season Top 25 and No.17 in the Division II Bulletin Pre-season Top 25 ... The Vikings were picked third in the GNAC Pre-season Coaches Poll, behind Seattle Pacific and Alaska Anchorage. They were not the pre-season choice in either of the last two seasons, but went on to win the national championship in 2012 and reach the national semifinals in 2013.

COACH DOMINGUEZ: Tony Dominguez (2nd year, 51-10, 83.6 percent) directed the Vikings to a 31-3 record in 2012-13, GNAC regular-season and West Regional titles, and the NCAA II national semifinals. He became the first rookie coach in NCAA II history to win his first 24 games. Dominguez was a finalist for Clarence "Big House" Gaines National Coach of the Year honors and shared the GNAC Coach of the Year award. Previously, he was an associate head coach for two seasons and an assistant 17 years overall, all at WWU. During that stretch, the Vikings posted a 317-165 (.658) record, making six regional appearances and winning five conference championships. WWU took the NCAA II national crown in 2012, winning a school record 31 games, and reached the national semifinals in 2001.

RADIO BROADCASTS: Selected WWU games are being broadcast this season on KBAI Radio (930 AM) and KPUG Radio (1170 AM) 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://client.stretchinternet.com/client/wwu.portal#. For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the WWU 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.

ROOT SPORTS: Three WWU home games were televised live on ROOT Sports (Comcast Channel 30) this season. They included Seattle Pacific on Jan. 15, Alaska Anchorage on Feb. 1 and Central Washington on Feb. 22. ROOT Sports is the home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks and Portland Timbers, among numerous other professional and collegiate sports teams in the Pacific Northwest. Its scope covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, and the ROOT SPORTS regional networks combine to reach nine million homes across 18 states.

PROBABLE WWU STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:

G Richard Woodworth, 6-3, ***Sr., Bellevue, WA/Newport
G Robert Harris Jr., 5-10, Sr., TR, Kent, WA/Rainier Beach/Eastern Arizona CC/Idaho
C Austin Bragg, 6-9, *Sr., Longview, WA/Mark Morris/Clark CC
F Jeffrey Parker, 6-6, R-Fr., Richmond, CA/Salesian
F Anye Turner, 6-7, *Jr., Tumwater, WA/Black Hills/South Puget Sound CC

F Joey Schreiber, 6-7, R-Fr., Renton, WA/Eastside Catholic F Colby Mitchell, 6-7, Jr., JC, Chugiak, AK/Chugiak/Mount Hood CC G Dana Abe, 6-4, R-Fr., Seattle, WA/O'Dea G Dane Thorpe, 6-4, ***Sr., Bellingham, WA/Sehome F Robert Oliver, 6-4, *Jr., Federal Way, WA/Decatur G Mark Hopkins, 6-3, Jr., JC, San Antonio, TX/Randolph/Temple JC/Schreiner G Alfred Davis, 6-0, *Sr., Tacoma, WA/Lincoln/Pierce CC C Jordan Mosby-Barker, 6-9, Jr., JC, Portland, OR/Parkrose/Clackamas CC *letters

RECENT GAME SUMMARY:

March 6 - WWU 73, Alaska Fairbanks 52 at Lacey, WA (GNAC semifinal)

Parker scored a game-high 21 points, 16 in the first half, as WWU defeated Alaska Fairbanks, 73-52, in a semifinal game at the GNAC Tournament being held at Marcus Pavilion. Schreiber scored 14 points and Harris, Jr., added 10, all of them in the second half, for the Vikings, the No.2 seed, who improved to 20-7 and advanced to the GNAC championship game. UAF, the No.4 seed, ended its season at18-10, shooting just 29.0 percent (18-of-62) from the floor. Ronnie Baker scored 18 points and Sergej Pucar 12 for the Nanooks. Baker had just four in the first half and Pucar two. UAF, which had a three-game winning streak snapped, reached the semifinals by defeating Montana State Billings, 69-59, in an opening-round contest. Woodworth, a first-team GNAC all-star for WWU, sustained an injury to his right leg one minute into the second half and did not return to action. WWU led 17-5 after the first 11:38 as the Nanooks made just two of their first 19 shots from the field. With 5:36 left in the period, UAF had crept back to within five, 19-14. But the Vikings responded by scoring the last 19 points of the half, the run beginning with five straight 3-pointers, four of them by Parker, to lead by 24 points, 38-14, at the intermission. Parker finished 5-of-6 on 3-pointers. The Nanooks shot just 15.6 percent from the field (5-of-32) in the first half, making just 1-of-10 3-point attempts. UAF began the second half with a 13-1 run, cutting the deficit to 12, 39-27, on a 3-pointer by Pucar with 15 minutes left. But that was as close as the Nanooks would get as WWU scored 15 of the next 19 points to lead, 54-31, with 11:21 to go. The Vikings' biggest advantage was 27 points on two occasions, the first at 65-38 with five minutes remaining. WWU had a 43-29 rebound advantage with Turner grabbing a game-high 10 and Harris and Parker nine each. The victory clinched a third straight 20-win season for WWU as Dominguez became the first coach in school history to reach the 20-win plateau in each of his first two seasons.