WWU hosts Northwest on Saturday in Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Chuck Randall
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Chuck Randall
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Nov. 22, 2011

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Looking to complete a sweep of a five-game homestand, the Western Washington University men's basketball team entertains Northwest University in the Chuck Randall Thanksgiving Classic on Saturday (7 p.m.) at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.

The non-conference game is named in honor of former WWU men's basketball coach Chuck Randall, a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame. The contest can be viewed live on the internet at www.pennatlantic.com.

The 6-1 Vikings are coming off an 88-69 win Monday over Brigham Young-Hawaii, which reached the NCAA Division II national championship game last year and was ranked No.3 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Preseason Top 25.

Next week, WWU begins Great Northwest Athletic Conference play, traveling to Montana State Billings on Thursday (7 p.m.), Dec. 1, and to No.22-rated Seattle Pacific on Saturday (7 p.m.), Dec. 3.

The Vikings began their homestand with wins over Notre Dame de Namur, 87-73; Capilano BC, 104-78; and Dominican CA, 74-69, before toppling BYUH. They opened the season by winning two of three games at the West Coast Disney Tipoff Classic, defeating Dominican, 74-61, and UC San Diego, 78-68, then losing to Chestnut Hill PA, 80-71.

Senior forward Rory Blanche, who had 24 points on 10-of-13 floor accuracy and grabbed 10 rebounds against BYU-Hawaii, leads WWU in both scoring at 16.7 points per game and rebounding at 7.4. He is shooting 60.9 percent (53-of-87) from the field, hitting 50.0 percent or better in every game this season.

Blanche has scored double-figures in all but the Dominican contest. That snapped a string of 23 games with 10 or more points that began in mid-December last season. He scored a career-high 25 points against Capilano.

Junior guard John Allen, who had a game-high 26 points versus BYUH, is averaging 15.7 points and a team-best 3.7 assists. He is shooting 50.0 percent (20-of-40) from 3-point range, 54.0 percent (34-of-63) from the floor and has made 22-of-24 free throws, 91.7 percent.

Also averaging double-digit points for the Vikings are senior forward Zach Henifin at 10.6 and junior guard Richard Woodworth at 10.0. Henifin is averaging a team-high 2.3 steals along with 4.9 rebounds, and Woodworth is hitting 54.7 percent (29-of-53) from the floor.

Junior guard Rico Wilkins is averaging 8.3 points off the bench, and reserve senior center Dan Young has blocked 18 shots (2.6 avg.).

Brad Jackson, who is in his 27th season as WWU's head coach, is just seven wins shy of becoming the 40th NCAA Division II coach to reach the 500 milestone. His 493 wins rank 13th among active NCAA II coaches.

NORTHWEST: The Eagles are off to a 7-0 start (host Linfield on Nov. 25). Three top players back from last year's team that reached the NAIA National Tournament are senior guard Jordan Call (15.6 ppg, 4.2 apg), senior center Jason Waltman (10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and sophomore forward Michael Greene (12.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 74.4 FG Pct.), who helped Squalicum HS to two Class 2A state titles. A top transfer for coach John Van Dyke (12th year) is senior guard Ahmaad Cook (14.8 ppg, 2.2 spg), who was an all-Orange Coast Conference choice at Fullerton JC last season. The game will be an exhibition for NU, which is located in Kirkland. WWU holds a 23-1 series advantage.

MONTANA STATE BILLINGS: The Yellowjackets are 2-2 (host Colorado Christian on Nov. 22 and at Mary ND on Nov. 26), 2-0 at home, under first-year coach Jamie Stevens, who headed the program at Central Wyoming for the last three seasons. Two top returnees for MSUB are 5-10 senior guard Jaxon Myaer (14.5 ppg, 3.8 apg), who led the GNAC in assists last year (5.0), and 6-7 senior forward Robert Mayes (9.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Two NCAA I transfers making solid contributions are 6-3 senior guard Antoine Proctor (18.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) from Sacramento State and 6-7 senior forward Taylor Stevens (9.3 ppg) from Seattle U. WWU holds a 12-2 series advantage.

SEATTLE PACIFIC: The Falcons, ranked No.22 in the NABC Preseason Top 25, are 4-0 (at Grand Canyon on Nov. 25, vs. Academy of Art on Nov. 26, host Simon Fraser on Dec. 1). In an exhibition game on Oct. 27, they shocked NCAA I No.16 Arizona, 69-68. SPU is led by 6-2 sophomore guard David Downs (19.5 ppg), the GNAC Freshman of the Year last season, and 6-11 junior center Andy Poling (15.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg), a Sporting News honorable mention preseason All-American. A top newcomer for coach Ryan Looney (3rd year, 46-16) is 6-6 junior forward Jobi Wall, a transfer 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. The Falcons have made seven straight NCAA II national tournament appearances. WWU trails, 76-45, in the series.

VIKING NOTES: Blanche had a 23-game double-figure scoring string end when he was held to eight points by Dominican on Nov. 20 ... WWU lost senior forward Shedrick Nelson, a top reserve, for the season in the Notre Dame de Namur game as he tore both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee near the end of the second half ... Allen and Blanche were all-tournament picks at the Disney West Coast Classic ... Guard Anthony Wiederkehr, who is in his second year of graduate studies at WWU, made the decision to leave the team and concentrate on academics ... 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. Three Vikings were named GNAC Academic all-stars - Blanche, junior center Chris Mitchell and Wiederkehr. Blanche and Wiederkehr were both honored for the second time.

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 (493-275) and winning percentage (.642). Prior to this season, Jackson ranked No.13 among active NCAA II coaches in victories and No.44 overall.

Jackson has directed the Vikings to 19 post-season appearances and 11 20-win seasons during his tenure. WWU reached the regional semifinals in 2009-10, 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 record and reached the national semifinals, Jackson being named NABC/NCAA II West Region, Northwest small college and Pacific West Conference Coach of the Year.

POST-SEASON: This year, the GNAC championship will be decided with a six-team tournament at Saint Martin's University (Marcus Pavilion) beginning Wednesday, Feb. 29. The No. 1 and No. 2 regular-season finishers will earn first round byes and play Wednesday's winners in semifinal action Friday, March 2. The championship game will be Saturday, March 3. Central Washington won the first GNAC tourney last year, when it consisted of eight teams and games were played at the highest seed.

GNAC COACHES PICK 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 Western 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 C Dan Young, 6-10, *Sr., Federal Way/Lakewood/Highline CC G Rico Wilkins, 6-0, Jr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto/Yakima Valley CC G Dane Thorpe, 6-3, *So, Bellingham/Sehome F Damien Fisher, 6-7, Jr., Fife/Fife/Centralia CC *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 486-156 (.757) in 50 years.

2011-12 GAME-BY-GAME SUMMARIES:

Nov. 4 - WWU 74, Dominican 61 at Anaheim, CA (Disney Classic)

Rory Blanche and John Allen each scored 14 points, lifting WWU to a 74-61 victory over Dominican of California in opening-day action at the Disney West Coast Tip-Off Classic. It was the season debut for both teams. Blanche, who also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes to give the Vikings a 33-32 lead at halftime. Allen had 10 points in the second half. WWU opened up a nine-point lead, 47-38, with 12:20 left in the game on a layup by Rico Wilkins, who had eight of his 12 points in the final period. But Dominican cut that advantage to two, 50-48, with 10:01 to go and was within six, 58-52, at the 7:07 mark. The Vikings then scored 13 straight points to take a 19-point lead, their biggest of the game, with 3:44 left. Dominican never got closer than 13 after that. Ryan McIntosh scored a game-high 15 points for Dominican, 13 in the first half. WWU, which did not make a 3-point field goal in 11 attempts, had just 10 turnovers to 24 for the Penguins. Zach Henifin contributed nine points, five steals and four rebounds for the Vikings.

Nov. 5 - WWU 78, UC San Diego 68 at Anaheim, CA (Disney Classic)

Guard Rico Wilkins came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points, making 5-of-11 three pointers, as WWU defeated UC San Diego, 78-68, in second-day action at the Disney West Coast Tip-Off Classic. The Vikings had four players besides Wilkins finish with double-figure points. Rory Blanche had 13, Zach Henifin and Shedrick Nelson each had 11 and Richard Woodworth 10. UCSD, 1-1, was led by center Christian Hatch, who had game-highs of 18 points and eight rebounds. WWU was 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from beyond the arc against the Tritons. The Vikings, who trailed only in the first minute, led by 13, 39-26, at halftime. Wilkins scored 12 of his points in the second half as WWU built its lead to as many as 18, 68-50, with 7:02 to go. UCSD never got closer than 10 after that. WWU's Dan Young blocked five shots and Paul Jones grabbed eight rebounds and scored eight points.

Nov. 6 - WWU 80, Chestnut Hill PA 71 at Anaheim, CA (Disney Classic)

WWU lost 80-71 to Chestnut Hill PA in final-day action at the Disney West Coast Tip-Off Classic. The Vikings got 17 points each from Rory Blanche and John Allen, who also had six assists. The 2-1 Griffins were led by the game-high 21 points of forward Dan Comas, who was 8-of-11 from the field. They also got 16 points from reserve Alssene Sanitilus on 7-of-10 floor accuracy. WWU scored nine of the game's first 10 points over the first two minutes as Allen hit two three-pointers and Rico Wilkins one. The Vikings led 19-11 with 11:41 to go in the first half before Chestnut Hill responded with 11 straight points to begin a 15-2 run that gave the Griffins a 26-21 lead with 7:15 to go. Chestnut Hill extended its advantage to 41-32 at halftime as Comas had 15 points in the opening period. WWU narrowed the margin to one, 47-46, with 14:10 left in the game, and was still within six, 72-66, with 2:08 remaining. But Mark DiRugeris scored all five of his points over a one-minute span to give the Griffens' a nine-point lead, 77-68, with 29 seconds left to seal the victory. The Vikings shot only 37.9 percent (25-of-66) from the field, connecting on just 10-of-35 three-pointers (28.6 percent). Chestnut Hill hit 50.9 percent (28-of-55) from the floor and converted 22-of-31 free throws. Brandon Williams scored 12 points for the Griffins, and Luke Dickson had 10.

Nov. 11 - WWU 87, Notre Dame de Namur 73 at Bellingham

John Allen scored a game-high 18 points as WWU defeated Notre Dame de Namur, 87-73, in a non-conference game at Carver Gym. It was the home opener for the Vikings, who shot 54.0 percent (24-of-63) from the field, including 62.5 percent (10-of-16) on three-pointers. Wesley White came off the bench to contribute team-highs of 16 points and six rebounds for NDNU, which was playing its first game of the season. Josh Pettit added 11 points for the Argonauts on 4-of-5 floor accuracy. WWU never trailed, scoring the first six points of the game and jumping to a 17-2 lead less than seven minutes into the contest. The Vikings, who shot 64.3 percent (18-of-28) from the field in the opening period, held a 43-19 lead at halftime. The Argonauts used a 19-8 run midway through the second half to close the margin to 15, 66-51, with nine minutes left, but never got that close again until the final seconds. Rory Blanche and Richard Woodworth each had 16 points for WWU, with Woodworth going 7-of-9 from the floor and adding five assists and four steals. Zach Henifin had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Allen, who also had five assists, was 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, with Woodworth hitting 2-of-2 and Henifin 2-of-3. The lone down note of the night for the Vikings was the loss of Shedrick Nelson, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee at the 7:20 mark of the second half.

Nov. 12 - WWU 104, Capilano BC, 78 at Bellingham

Rory Blanche scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, both game highs, as WWU broke open a tight game early in the second half and defeated Capilano BC, 104-78, in a non-conference contest at Carver Gym. Six players scored in double figures for the Vikings, who improved to 4-1 overall with their second home win in as many nights. Omid Davani paced Capilano, located in North Vancouver, B.C., with 22 points and nine rebounds. The Vikings led by just five, 49-44, in the opening minute of the second half, but broke the contest open with 13 straight points to take a 62-44 advantage with 16:24 to play. The lead didn't get past 20 until the last six minutes. WWU shot 57.9 percent (44-of-76) from the field, with Blanche going 12-of-17. Richard Woodworth had 16 points for the Vikings, and forward Zach Henifin had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Dan Young contributed 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Guard James Lum had 14 points and a game-high nine assists for Capilano, scoring 12 points in the first half. WWU never trailed, but the Blues stayed within shouting distance throughout a fast-paced first half that saw the Vikings take a 49-42 halftime lead. Henifin had 13 points in the opening half for WWU, hitting 5-of-6 shots from the floor. Also scoring double-figures for the Vikings were John Allen with 11 points and center Chris Mitchell with 10.

Nov. 19 - WWU 74, Dominican CA 69 at Bellingham

John Allen scored a game-high 19 points as WWU slipped past Dominican CA, 74-69, in a non-conference came at Carver Gym. Zach Henifin added 13 points for the Vikings. Dominican, which fell to 0-5, was led by the 12 points and seven rebounds of reserve center Jacob Noisat. Guard Mark Lewis and forward Derek Ober each had 11 points. The Vikings, who held a 40-34 lead at halftime, scored just five points in the first eight minutes of the second half, allowing the Penguins to take a 48-45 lead on an Ober three-pointer with 12:06 to play. Dominican was still up, 54-52, with a little over nine minutes left, but the Vikings took the lead for good, 56-54, on a Paul Jones jumper with 8:26 remaining. The gap never exceeded eight points the rest of the way, and the Penguins had a chance to tie late, but Myles Carrillo's open three-pointer with 14 seconds left hit the front of the rim and kicked off. WWU's Dane Thorpe grabbed the rebound and then hit two free throws with nine seconds left for the final margin. Rico Wilkins had 12 points off the bench for WWU, and center Chris Mitchell added 10.

Nov. 21 - WWU 88, BYU-Hawaii 69 at Bellingham

John Allen scored a game-high 26 points and forward Rory Blanche added 24 points and a game-high 10 rebounds as WWU broke open a tight contest in the last eight minutes and defeated nationally ranked BYU-Hawaii, 88-69, in a non-conference game at Carver Gym. BYUH, ranked No.3 in the NABC/NCAA II Preseason Top 25, fell to 0-4. The Seasiders, who reached the national championship game last year, got 16 points each from center Brady Hurst and guard Tsung-Hsien "Jet" Chang. Guard Oksesene Ale added 15 points and five assists. The Vikings led by just two, 64-62, with 8:30 left, but scored the next eight points, five by Allen, to open up a 72-62 advantage with 6:18 to play. The Seasiders got as close as seven points after that, but WWU pulled away in the closing stages, holding BYUH without a field goal after a Chang putback with 3:36 to go. WWU led by as much as 13 points in the first half, but BYUH used a run of nine straight points that closed the gap to 37-33 with 3:55 left in the period and trailed by only five, 44-39, at halftime. Richard Woodworth had 11 points for WWU. The Vikings shot 53.3 percent (32-of-60) from the field and 42.9 percent (9-of-21) on 3-pointers. BYUH was 40.3 percent (27-of-67) from the floor and hit just 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) treys. Blanche was 10-of-13 from the field and Allen was 8-of-13, including 4-of-6 on three-pointers. WWU also had a 42-33 advantage in rebounds.