Hot-shooting Vikings upset No.8 Alaska Anchorage, 78-58

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Ashley Fenimore
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Ashley Fenimore
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Jan. 9, 2010

Box Score

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Guard Ashley Fenimore (Sr., Lynnwood/Meadowdale) more than tripled her season average with a game-high 17 points and also added five assists as Western Washington University upset nationally ranked and defending conference champion University of Alaska Anchorage, 78-58, in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference women's basketball contest Saturday on Haggen Court at Sam Carver Gymnasium.

The Vikings improved to 11-2 overall and 2-0 in the GNAC. Forward Willow Cabe (Sr., McCleary/Elma) added 16 points for Western, which is unbeaten in seven home games this season, and forward Jessica Summers (Sr., Blaine) added 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

UAA, ranked No.8 in this week's Women's Basketball Coaches Association/NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, fell to 11-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Guard Kiki Taylor and reserve forward Kelsie Gourdin each had 14 points for the Seawolves.

It was Western's first victory over a Top 10 team since beating No.10 Cal Poly Pomona in the West Region championship of the NCAA Division II National Tournament on March 10, 2000.

The Vikings took control midway through the contest, closing the first half on 9-2 run over last 2:30 to take 38-25 lead at halftime, then scoring the first six points of the second half to open up a 44-25 advantage with 18:30 to play. The Seawolves never got closer than 18 points after that.

UAA entered the game allowing an NCAA II-best 48.0 points a contest, but the Vikings reached that plateau less than four minutes into the second half. Western shot 54.0 percent (27-of-50) from the field, and 89.5 percent (17-of-19) on free throws. UAA shot just 32.8 percent (20-of-61) from the field, including just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) in the first half.

"We played good defense the whole night, we stayed focused at the defensive end for 40 minutes," said Western coach Carmen Dolfo. "The other key was that we moved the ball well. We found the open person, we didn't force things and we took what they gave us."

The Seawolves played most of the second half without starting center Hanna Johannson, who suffered a hard fall early in the period and was taken to the hospital with an apparent concussion.

It was Western's first victory against the Seawolves in their last seven meetings over the last four seasons.

The Vikings play their next three games, all GNAC contests, on the road, traveling to Western Oregon on Thursday (5:15 p.m.).

Vikings pick up big home victory over No.8 Seawolves

JOE SUNNEN - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - When Western Washington University senior Jessica Summers found out a few months ago that she would be receiving an additional year of eligibility the first opponent she thought about playing was the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

After a convincing 78-58 win over the Seawolves on Saturday, Jan. 9, at Carver Gym in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play the wait was well worth it.

The Vikings ran away with one of their biggest regular season wins in recent memory, building a 38-25 lead at the half and cruising past the defending conference champs. The Seawolves came into the game ranked No.8 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Division II Top 25 Poll, but struggled from the start against a hot-shooting Western team.

The last time the Vikings knocked off a team ranked in the Top 10 was nearly a decade ago in March of 2000 when they defeated No.10 Cal Poly Pomona 84-66 in a West Regional Championship game. The last time they defeated a team ranked that high at home was in December of 2005 when they handed No. 11 Chico State a 94-81 loss.

"It's huge for us," Summers said. "We've already lost to two nationally ranked teams so for us to come out and do the work like we did shows that we definitely have a lot of potential. We still have things we can work on, but I think it shows that we've got what we need."

Western's last win against the Seawolves came in 2006 and the win on Saturday snapped a six-game losing skid to UAA. It also solidified the Vikings' place among the short list of early contenders for a GNAC crown. Anchorage has reached semifinals of the NCAA Division II national tournament in each of the last two seasons and is the defending conference champion.

"We don't make rankings a big deal," WWU coach Carmen Dolfo said. "But because we've lost to Anchorage the last few times by three points and they have been to the Final Four the last two seasons this is a great win for us. We aren't really looking at the ranking part, but for our team you have to win the home ones because this conference is tough."

Western (11-2, 2-0) held a 24-point lead at one point early in the second half, and was never seriously threatened after starting the half with an 18-8 run. A similar hot start in the first half also helped the Vikings with senior Willow Cabe scoring 10 of the Western's first 14 points to set the tone early. An 8-0 run halfway through the first half lifted the team to a 22-10 with just over nine minutes to play.

The Seawolves (11-2, 1-1) rallied to pull within 25-18 with six minutes to go in the first half when Tamar Gruwell converted a 4-point play, but the Vikings stiffened and UAA never got closer. Baskets by Ashley Fenimore, and Krystal Robinson pushed Western's lead back to 29-21 late in the first half, and the Vikings closed with a 9-2 run to hold a 38-25 advantage at the half.

Kristin Schramm started the run with a 3-pointer, the last of five in the first half for WWU. Cabe had two 3-pointers to start the game and Fenimore also hit a pair. Fenimore finished with three and WWU had with seven for the game.

"We knew that if we moved the ball their defense would eventually break down," Fenimore said. "It was about working together, finding the open player and staying patient. It was just a matter of communicating and letting our post know that if they were being doubled they could kick it out to us."

In the second half WWU picked up right where it left off, this time with Summers knocking down a 3-pointer. It was the first of 13 second half points for Summers who came in as the Vikings leading scorer, but was held in check for much of the first half. She finished with 15 points, Cabe added 16 and Fenimore paced all scorers with 17 points.

It also didn't take long for it to become apparent it was going to be a physical contest. Nearly every pass was contested in the first half and any loose ball was met with a mass of bodies diving to the floor.

Fenimore left the game late in the first half after a brutal collision on an illegal screen left her wincing and holding her ribs only to return shortly after. Later in the game UAA's Hanna Johansson also left the game after taking a charge and then hitting the floor hard. She returned to the game briefly after the apparent head injury, but left again and was taken from the gym in an ambulance. Her condition was not known at press time.

Defensively the Vikings held UAA to just 33 percent shooting from the field and forced 19 turnovers. Kiki Taylor and Kelsie Gourdin each had 14 points for the Seawolves.

"I felt like we played good defense," Dolfo said. "We've been really relying on the fact that we can shoot, but tonight we really worked together on defense and found out that we don't have to rely on that. We found out that we can play together, score, and play defense."