No.1 WWU faces No.3 SPU in NCAA II West Regional final

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WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

March 11, 2012

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Looking for its second NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance in school history, the top-seeded Western Washington University men's basketball team faces No.3 seed Seattle Pacific University in the West Regional championship game Monday, March 12 (7 p.m.), at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.

The contest can be heard live on KPUG Radio (1170 AM - www.kpug1170.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.

Monday's winner goes to the NCAA II Elite Eight on March 21, 22 and 24 at Highland Heights, Kentucky, facing the Sound Central Region champion.

The 27-5 Vikings, ranked No.12 in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches/NCAA II Top 25 Poll, advanced to the regional final with victories over No.8 seed Grand Canyon, 79-73, in the first round Friday and No.5 Chico State, 74-65, in the semifinals Saturday.

Seattle Pacific, 23-7, opened regional play with a 70-68 win over No.6 seed Dixie State and followed that with an 80-67 victory over No.2 seed and nationally No.16-ranked Alaska Anchorage.

WWU won both regular-season meetings with the Falcons, 79-71, at Seattle on Dec. 3, and 72-70 at Bellingham on Feb. 23. The win at Carver Gym snapped a six-game losing streak to the Falcons at that venue.

The regional final is the third for the Vikings since becoming a NCAA II member in 1998. They defeated Cal State San Bernardino, 58-55, in 2001 and went on to reach the national semifinals, and they lost 81-77 to Seattle Pacific in 2006 at Seattle.

This is WWU's sixth regional appearance with the Vikings being the host five of those times. They are 16-1 at home this season, the win total tying a school record.

The Vikings rank 13th nationally among NCAA II schools in scoring offense (81.7 avg.), 18th in three-point percentage (38.9, 228-of-586), and 21st in field-goal percentage (49.0, 947-of-1932).

WWU, which was No.1 in the West Region in all three ratings prior to the announcing of its No.1 seed on March 4, 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.

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 70 vs. No.6 Dixie State 68 Game #2 - No.2 Alaska Anchorage 80 vs. No.7 Montana State Billings 68 Game #3 - No.4 Humboldt State 68 vs. No.5 Chico State 75 Game #4 - No.1 Western Washington 79 vs. No.8 Grand Canyon 73

March 10 (Sat.) Game #5 - Seattle Pacific 80 vs. Alaska Anchorage 67 Game #6 - Western Washington 74 vs. Chico State 65

March 12 (Mon.) Game #7 - Western Washington vs. Seattle Pacific - 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

REGIONAL TICKETS: Tickets for Monday's regional final can be purchased by calling 360-650-2583. Reserved tickets are $12, general admission $8, and students, youth and seniors with ID are $5.

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 is a first-team Daktronics West Region all-star and a unanimous first-team GNAC all-star. He 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 59.8 percent (222-of-371), fifth in scoring and offensive rebounds (2.9) and eighth in rebounds.

Blanche, who is 14th all-time in WWU career scoring with 1,223 points (needs 28 to move into tie for 13th), has had seven double-doubles in points and rebounds this season and has scored double-figure points in 46 of his last 50 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-GNAC pick for the second straight year, is averaging 14.7 points and ranks ninth nationally and leads the league in free throw percentage at 88.4 (84-of-95). He also is fourth in the GNAC in steals (2.1), eighth in three-point accuracy (42.9, 69-of-161) and ninth in three-point makes (2.2).

REST OF FIRST FIVE: Sophomore guard Richard Woodworth, who is averaging 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists, leads the conference in three-point accuracy at 48.6 percent (35-of-72). Receiving all-league honorable mention, he ranks eighth in both free throw percentage (82.1, 69-of-84) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0 to 1.7).

Senior forward Zach Henifin is averaging 10.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. He ranks fifth among conference leaders in steals (1.7).

Rounding out the first five is junior center Chris Mitchell, who is averaging 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds. He ranks 12th in the league in three-point shooting at 41.8 percent (33-of-79).

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

BENCH: Top players off the bench have been junior guard Rico Wilkins (7.6 ppg), junior forward Paul Jones (7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who is fourth in the league in free-throw shooting (86.6 percent, 58-of-67); senior center Dan Young (2.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg), who is sixth among GNAC leaders in blocks (1.1); and sophomore guard Dane Thorpe (2.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg).

SEATTLE PACIFIC: The Falcons are 23-7 overall. SPU is led by two first-team GNAC all-stars - 6-2 sophomore guard David Downs (15.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.7 rpg, 87.7 FT Pct., 150-171, 44.3 3-pt. Pct., 70-158), the GNAC Freshman of the Year last season; and 6-11 junior center Andy Poling (15.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg), a Sporting News honorable mention preseason All-American. Downs scored 33 points in an 89-76 win at BYU-Hawaii and Poling had 31 in a 79-71 loss to WWU on Dec. 3 at Seattle. Another solid returnee is 6-6 senior forward Jake Anderson (5.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg), who scored a career-high 24 points in SPU's 70-68 opening-round regional win over Dixie State. Named GNAC Freshman of the Year was 6-8 redshirt center Cory Hutson (6.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg). A top newcomer for coach Ryan Looney (3rd year, 66-22; overall 161-77, 8 years) is 6-6 junior forward Jobi Wall (11.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who transferred from Colorado Christian. Wall was a redshirt at CCU last season after earning first-team Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors in 2009-10, averaging 16.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. SPU ranks 10th nationally in scoring defense (60.9), fifth in rebound margin (10.0) and eighth in field goal percentage defense (38.9). The Falcons have made eight straight NCAA II national tournament appearances, the longest current string among NCAA II schools, and 23 overall. WWU trails in the series, 76-47, losing 12 of the last 15 meetings.

WWU REGIONAL NOTES: The Vikings have shot 51.7 percent (60-of-116) from the floor in their first two regional games, but just 52.1 percent (25-of-48) at the free throw line. They have turned the ball over only 18 times to 30 for the opposition.

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 1,223 points and 525 rebounds during his four-year career, and is hitting 60.4 percent (520-of-861, 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 that 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 (514-279) 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 served as an assistant coach at Seattle Pacific for five years under Keith Swagerty (1976-80). Jackson is married to the former Debbie Halle, a four-time All-America gymnast at Seattle Pacific from 1974-77.

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 514), 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)
514 - 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 500-157 (76.1 percent) in 50 years.

RECENT GAME SUMMARIES:

March 9 - WWU 79, Grand Canyon 73 - West Region (First Round) at Bellingham

John Allen scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the first half as WWU built a 25-point lead, but the Vikings had to hold off a furious comeback from Grand Canyon in the second half before earning a 79-73 win in the first round of the West Regional at Carver Gym. WWU jumped to a 14-1 lead in the first 3:44 of the game. After Rory Blanche hit a jumper to start the game, Allen scored the Vikings' next seven points. GCU finally got on the board with a free throw, but Blanche hit a jumper and Chris Mitchell nailed a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 13 points. Later in the half, WWU had runs of 7-0 to go ahead 25-9 and 6-0 to stretch its lead to 31-11. The Vikings eventually went on top by 25 at 42-17 with four minutes left in the first half and were up by 21 at halftime, 48-27. But, GCU, which ended its season at 19-8, chipped away in the second half cutting the deficit to 12 points on four different occasions. WWU rebuilt its lead to 18 at 63-45 on a layup by Allen with 12:41 remaining and maintained a double-digit advantage until a three-pointer by reserve Blake Davis at 5:54 and a layup by forward Jerome Garrison pulled the Antelopes within nine, 70-61, with 5:19 remaining. Davis added a layup at 4:26 to pull GCU to within seven with 4:26 remaining. The Antelopes climbed to within six at 71-65 with 3:46 left on two free throws by Blake and again at 73-67 on a jumper by Justin Wesolowski with 3:05 to go. But Blanche's jumper with 1:47 left re-established the lead at eight. Two baskets by Braylon Pickrel cut the Vikings' lead to four with 44 seconds remaining, but WWU finally put the game away at the foul line as Cameron Severson made two with 28 seconds left and Blanche converted two more with 16 seconds remaining to open the lead back to eight. Allen made six of seven shots in the opening period, finishing the contest with 10 field goals in 16 attempts. Blanche was also in double figures with 16 points, making all six of his field goal attempts. GCU was led by Pickrel with 18 points, including 16 in the second half. Davis came off the bench to add 11, nine after the intermission. The Antelopes, who had won nine straight, made 19 of 29 second-half shots (65.5 percent) to key their comeback and also benefited from 12 of 26 free throw shooting by WWU, which converted just seven of 18 in the second half. For the game, WWU shot 52.5 percent (31-of-59) after firing at a 59.4 percent clip (19-of-32) in the opening 20 minutes. GCU rebounded from a 34.8 percent first half (8-of-23) to finish the game at 51.9 percentage (27-of-52).

March 10 - WWU 74, Chico State 65 - West Region (Semifinal) at Bellingham

Rory Blanche and Zach Henifin combined for 25 of their 34 points in the second half to lead top-seeded WWU to a 74-65 win over fifth-seed Chico State in a semifinal of the West Regional Tournament at Carver Gym. Blanche scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Henifin had 10 of his 17 after the intermission. WWU also got 13 points from John Allen and 11 from Richard Woodworth. Forward Sean Park led Chico State, which finished at 25-8, with 13 points and a game-high five assists, while Amir Carraway had 11 points and Jason Conrad scored 10. The Vikings trailed 35-30 early in the second half, but took the lead for good on a tip-in by Henifin, the first of six consecutive Viking points by the WWU forward. Henifin added a jumper to put his team ahead 45-42, then added two free throws a few moments later for a 47-44 lead. WWU still led by just three with nine minutes left, 54-51, but the Vikings scored seven consecutive points getting a jumper from Woodworth, a three-pointer from Rico Wilkins and a jumper from Paul Jones to go ahead by 10, 61-51, with 6:37 left. Chico State climbed back to within five points, 63-58, on a three-pointer by Damario Sims with 3:43 remaining, but Allen hit a three-pointer to re-establish an eight-point lead just inside the two-minute mark. The Wildcats cut that deficit to six on two free throws by Park with 1:42 remaining, but two free throws by Woodworth and a spectacular tip-in by Henifin with 58 seconds left gave WWU a double-digit lead effectively sealing the victory. WWU shot 50 percent from the floor (29-of-58), while holding Chico State to a 35.8 percentage (19-of-53) including just 33.3 percent (9-of-27) in the second half, while also earning a draw on the backboards (36-36) and having seven fewer turnovers (8-15). The win was the 500th for WWU in its 50 years at Carver Gym.