No.2 WWU meets No.3 Seattle Pacific on Saturday for GNAC title
March 9, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Looking for its first league tournament title in the three-year history of the event, No.1 seed Western Washington University meets No.2 seed Seattle Pacific University in the championship game Saturday (7:30 p.m.), March 9, of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament being held at Lacey and Marcus Pavilion on the campus of host Saint Martin's University.
The Vikings, moved up one spot to No.2 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches/NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, and SPU climbed one spot to No.3. The contest will be televised by ROOT Sports with Brad Adam handling the play by play and Bill Krueger providing the color commentary. It can also be heard on KPUG Radio (1170 AM-kpug1170.com) with Doug Lange and Mark Scholten calling the action.
Live stats are also available at www.wwuvikings.com.
The 27-1 Vikings picked up their first GNAC tourney victory in semifinal action Friday, 61-43 over No.4 seed Alaska Fairbanks. The win avenged WWU's only loss of the season and the lone setback in its last 34 games, 77-73 at Fairbanks on Feb. 21.
Seattle Pacific, 24-3, reached the GNAC title contest with an 85-78 semifinal win over No.6 seed Central Washington. The Falcons have won eight straight games and 20 of their last 22, the only losses being to WWU, 66-56 at Seattle on Jan. 3 and 83-76 in overtime at Bellingham on Feb. 2.
Prior to Friday's win, the Vikings were 0-2 at the league tournament. In 2011, they lost in the first round, 77-75 to Northwest Nazarene, and in 2012, following a first-round bye, fell in the semifinals, 82-78, to eventual champion Montana State Billings.
The GNAC tourney champion earns an automatic berth in the NCAA II West Regional on March 15-16 and 18 at a site to be determined. Both WWU and Seattle Pacific have already earned regional at-large berths.
In the third and final West Region rating released Wednesday, March 6, WWU was ranked No.1 and Seattle Pacific No.3. The Vikings are expected to be the No.1 seed and host the West Regional no matter the outcome of Saturday's game. The official announcement will be made Sunday (7:30 p.m.) on NCAA.com.
WWU, the defending West Regional and NCAA II national champion, had a 24-0 start this season and a 30-game winning streak over the last two years. Both the start and streak broke school records that had stood for 41 years.
The Vikings' current No.2 national ranking is a position that they have held six of the last seven weeks and is the school's highest ever.
WWU has been rated among the Top 10 in all 14 weekly polls this season, also a school best. Overall, it is working on a school-record 22 straight Top 25 weekly rankings.
The Vikings earned the No.1 seed at the GNAC tournament by winning a second straight regular-season league championship, this time with a conference record-setting 17-1 mark.
WWU has started the same five players in every game this season, and all were named to the GNAC all-star team announced Monday.
Senior guard John Allen paces the Vikings in points per game at 17.3, second in the GNAC. Overall, he leads the team and ranks among the league's top 10 in four categories, being fourth in treys (2.2) and free-throw shooting (85.5 percent, 59-of-69), and sixth in assists (4.0).
Allen was named the GNAC Player of the Year, receiving nine of 10 votes from the conference coaches. He has scored 1,382 career points, which ranks 10th among WWU leaders, is 15th in assists (319) and his free-throw percentage of 89.0 (218-of-245) is on school-record pace.
Allen, who has scored double-figure points 22 times this season with a high of 38, has had three 30-plus point games this season and seven career contests with 30 or more. The school record is nine. He scored a career-high 43 points, the second-highest figure in school history and four off the school record, against Simon Fraser on Jan. 2, 2011.
Senior forward Paul Jones, a first-team all-conference pick, is averaging 14.6 points, eighth in the league, and 6.8 rebounds, also eighth in the GNAC. He is second among conference field-goal shooters (28th nationally) at 58.4 percent (157-269), also scoring double figures in 22 games.
Jones scored 18 points in an 86-85 win over arch-rival Central Washington on Jan. 10, including the buzzer-beating winning layup, and versus the Wildcats on Feb. 9, finished with 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. He has had five double-doubles in points and rebounds this season.
Junior guard Richard Woodworth, who has reached double figures in scoring 15 times this season, is averaging 10.3 points. A second-team all-league choice, he ranks third among GNAC leaders in free throw shooting (85.7 percent, 66-of-77) and sixth in 3-point accuracy (44.3 percent, 31-of-70).
Rounding out the starting five are senior center Chris Mitchell, who is averaging 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, and junior forward Austin Bragg, a transfer from Clark CC, who is averaging 8.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, fifth in the GNAC. Both players received all-conference honorable mention.
Bragg has had a GNAC and team-best six double-doubles in points and rebounds this season, including a 20-point, 11-rebound effort against Seattle Pacific on Feb. 2.
Mitchell, who was a first-team CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-District honors and is a three-time GNAC academic all-star, leads the GNAC in blocked shots at 1.4 (40, has blocked 13 shots in last five games) and Bragg is fourth at 1.3 (36).
Outstanding contributions off the bench have come from senior guard Rico Wilkins, who is averaging 8.5 points on 40.0 percent 3-point shooting (38-of-95); junior guard Cameron Severson, who is averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, shooting 57.6 percent from the floor (80-of-139) and 89.1 percent (57-of-64) at the line; and sophomore forward Anye Turner, a transfer from South Puget Sound CC, who is third among GNAC leaders in blocks at 1.3 (35) and is hitting 59.3 percent (35-of-59) of his field goals.
Severson has had 12 double-figure point games this season and Wilkins 10.
Seattle Pacific, ranked No.3 nationally, is 24-3 overall and placed second in the league standings at 16-2.
Leading SPU are four returning starters, led by unanimous first-team GNAC all-star 6-2 junior guard David Downs (14.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) and 6-11 senior center Andy Poling (10.4 ppg). They both were first-team conference picks last year.
Rounding out that quartet are 6-6 senior forward Jobi Wall (14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), a second-team GNAC all-star this season, and 6-4 sophomore guard Riley Stockton (6.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg-1st GNAC, 3.6 apg), who was named GNAC Defensive Player of the Year.
A top newcomer for coach Ryan Looney (4th year, 89-27; 9th overall, 184-82) is 6-8 senior forward Patrick Simon (13.4 ppg) from Washington State.
The Falcons have won eight straight games and 20 of their last 22, the only losses being to WWU, 66-56 at Seattle on Jan. 3 and 83-76 in overtime at Bellingham on Feb. 2. WWU trails 76-49 in the series, but has won the last five meetings after losing 12 of the previous 13. The two teams met in the 2012 West Regional championship game in Bellingham, where WWU prevailed 56-50.
The Falcons have participated in the last eight NCAA tournaments, the longest current streak in Division II. They advanced to the national semifinals in 2000 and 2006.
Lacey, Wash. (Marcus Pavilion) - host Saint Martin's University
March 7 - Thursday #6 Central Washington 79 vs. #3 Alaska Anchorage (18-9) 78 #5 Montana State Billings (16-14) 73 vs. #4 Alaska Fairbanks 87
NOT OVER THE HILL: Two of WWU's players are 24 years old - Chris Mitchell and Rico Wilkins, four are 23 - John Allen, Paul Jones, Cameron Severson and Alfred Davis, and two are 22 - Austin Bragg and Dane Thorpe.
NATIONAL AND REGIONAL TV: Saturday's regional telecast on ROOT Sports id the second this season for WWU, the other being Jan. 10 when the Vikings' won 86-85 at home over Central Washington. WWU also has been on national TV three times over the last calendar year. The Vikings were on the CBS Sports network and CBSSports.com in the national semifinal game and when they played Simon Fraser on March 2. The NCAA II national title contest was carried by CBS TV.
GNAC REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPS: The Vikings won the GNAC regular-season championship for the second straight year, finishing with a 17-1 record, the best in GNAC history. Last year, they placed first with a 16-2 mark. The GNAC title is the fifth overall for WWU, which also won conference titles in 2002, 2005 and 2009 when they weren't separated as to regular season and tournament.
NATIONAL AND GNAC TEAM STAT RANKINGS: The Vikings rank among the top 10 nationally in five team statistical categories. They are No.4 in 3-point percentage defense (28.3) and No.5 in scoring margin (17.4), No.6 in blocked shots (5.6), No.8 in field-goal percentage defense (39.9) and scoring offense (84.3). WWU leads the GNAC in scoring margin, free-throw percentage (75.0), field-goal percentage, field-goal percentage defense (38.5), 3-point percentage defense, rebound margin, blocked shots and steals (8.6).
WWU EARNS TOP RANKING AGAIN IN WEST REGION POLL: WWU had the top rating in the third and final NCAA II West Regional poll released Wednesday. The poll will eventually help determine which five at-large teams join the GNAC, Pacific West Conference and California Collegiate Athletic Association champions in the West Regional playoffs. The regional begins Fri., March 15 at a site to be determined.
CARVER GYM STREAK: The Vikings are 14-0 at home this season and are working on a school record 24-game winning streak at Carver Gym, breaking the standard of 21 set from 1970 to 1972. The streak is one shy of the GNAC record of 25 set by Humboldt State from 2001 to 2003.
TOP 10 RANKING: WWU has been ranked among the Top 10 in all 14 weekly polls this season, breaking the school record of 10 set during the 2005-06 campaign. The Vikings moved up one spot to No.2, matching the school's highest ever and one they have held six of the last seven weeks. WWU also was ranked No.2 one time during the 2005-06 season. In all, the Vikings are working on a school-record string of 22 straight Top 25 weekly rankings.
20 WIN SEASONS: WWU reached 20 wins for the 15th time in school history in Tony Dominguez' first year as head coach. Brad Jackson accomplished that feat 12 times during his 27 years as coach and Chuck Randall did it twice in 18 seasons.
THREE-DOT NOTES: The Vikings have started the same five players in every game this season ... Twenty-one of WWU's wins this season have been by 10 or more points, the other margins being seven in overtime, six twice, four, three and one ... Allen was picked as the preseason GNAC Player of the Year and was a Division II Bulletin Super 16 selection ... Allen was named Most Valuable Player at the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic and he and Woodworth were co-MVPs at the WWU Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic ... Also picked all-tournament at South Point was Mitchell ... Allen, Bragg, Jones and Woodworth have each earned GNAC Player of the Week recognition this season, Allen being named twice ... The Vikings received one first-place vote in the NABC Preseason Top 25 while being picked No.6 ... WWU was tabbed No.8 nationally in the Division II Bulletin preseason poll.
WWU EARNS GNAC TEAM HONOR TWICE: The Vikings earned GNAC Team of the Week honors for Dec. 30-Jan. 5 and Jan. 27-Feb. 2, both while posting wins over Montana State Billings and Seattle Pacific.
ALLEN 1,000 AND BEYOND: John Allen became the 23rd Viking to reach the 1,000 plateau in career scoring, and just the fifth who did not play four seasons at WWU to accomplish that feat, on Dec. 8 vs. Quest BC. Allen currently ranks 10th at 1,382, and is 15th in assists at 319. He is on school-record pace in career free-throw percentage at 89.0 (218-of-245) and his seven games with 30 points or more rank second in school history to Mike Franza (1970-73), who had nine.
PRE-SEASON HONORS: John Allen was picked as the preseason GNAC Player of the Year and was a Division II Bulletin Super 16 pick. Besides Allen, the Vikings' Paul Jones and Richard Woodworth were named to the GNAC preseason all-conference team.
COACH DOMINGUEZ: Tony Dominguez (27-1, first rookie coach in school history to win 20 games and the first in NCAA II history to win his first 24), who shared GNAC Coach of the Year honors, is in his first season as head coach at WWU after being an associate head coach the previous two seasons and an assistant 17 years overall, all at WWU. During that stretch, the Vikings posted a 317-165 (.658) record, made six regional appearances and won 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. As an assistant, Dominguez was responsible for recruiting, scouting, coordinating scheduling, and budgeting. He played a major role in the recruiting classes of past 12 seasons. Those teams had a winning percentage of .711 (246-100).
FINAL SEASON FOR VISSER: This campaign will be the last for Rob Visser, who is in his 19th year as an assistant for the Vikings. A member of the WWU Athletics Hall of Fame, Visser had 1,026 points, 725 rebounds (fourth) and 168 blocked shots (second) during his three-year career.
TOUGH EXHIBITIONS: The Vikings accounted well for themselves in a pair of road exhibition games against NCAA I opponents. They lost 88-78 at Washington on Oct. 24 and fell 105-87 at Duke, which has been ranked No.1 in the AP poll. WWU trailed by just two points, 74-72, against Washington with 4:30 to play, and versus Duke was within 11, 69-58, with 13:58 to go and 14, 99-85, with 2:13 remaining. The 18-point margin was the closest any defending DII national championship team had gotten to Duke since the Blue Devils began inviting those squads for exhibitions six years ago. In the combined second half of the games with Washington and Duke, the Vikings trailed by just four points. John Allen and Chris Mitchell each scored a team-high 17 points against Washington and Paul Jones added 15. Jones led the Vikings versus Duke with 20 points, 14 in the second half. Allen had 17, Woodworth 13 and Rico Wilkins added 12 off the bench.
NATIONAL CHAMPS! WWU won the 2012 national championship, defeating Montevallo, Ala., 72-65, on March 24 in a nationally televised game at Northern Heights, Kentucky. The Vikings finished 31-5, the win total being the most in school history. They won their final six games following a loss to Montana State Billings in the GNAC Tournament semifinal after winning the league's regular-season crown. It was the first NCAA basketball title at any level for a school from the state of Washington since Puget Sound won the NCAA II championship in 1976. Brad Jackson, who was the unanimous DII National Coach of the Year, resigned in late August to become an assistant at University of Washington, ending a 27-year, 518-win coaching tenure at WWU.
WEST REGION AT NCAA II ELITE EIGHT: A representative of the West Region has either won the national men's basketball title or been runner-up in each of the last four years. WWU won the title in 2012 after BYU Hawaii reached the final in 2011, and Cal Poly Pomona took the crown in 2010 after getting to the final in 2009. 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.
PROBABLE WWU STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:
G Richard Woodworth, 6-3, **Jr., Bellevue, WA/Newport G John Allen, 6-1, **Sr., Brier, WA/Mountlake Terrace/WSU C Chris Mitchell, 6-9, ***Sr., Everson, WA/Nooksack Valley F Austin Bragg, 6-9, Jr., JC, Longview, WA/Mark Morris/Clark CC F Paul Jones, 6-4, *Sr., Kent, WA/Kent-Meridian/Whatcom CC
MOST RECENT GAME SUMMARY:
March 8 - WWU 61, Alaska Fairbanks 43 at Lacey, WA (GNAC Tourney)
Jones led a balanced attack with 12 points as top seed WWU advanced to the championship game with a 61-43 semifinal win over No.4 seed Alaska Fairbanks at the GNAC Tournament at Marcus Pavilion. The Vikings, ranked No.2 nationally 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. 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 a Bragg 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. Allen had 11 points for the Vikings, as did Severson off the bench. 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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