BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Western Washington University women's basketball team reduced a 21-point halftime deficit against visiting Seattle Pacific University to five points during the third quarter but the Falcons held off the Vikings for a 75-63 victory Thursday evening in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action on WECU Court in Carver Gym.
WWU (6-9, 2-5 GNAC) faced its largest halftime deficit of the season at 47-26 before battling back to within 56-51 at the end of the third quarter, but the Falcons (11-3, 5-2 GNAC) did not let WWU come any closer.
Trailing by as many as 23 points in the third quarter at 49-26 after a basket from SPU to open the scoring, the Vikings stormed back in the latter half of the period and used a 22-5 run to close to within 56-51. Within the 22-5 run was a 12-2 run to reduce a 54-39 deficit with 3:32 remaining to 56-51 at the end of the quarter.
Sophomore guard Dani Iwami (Seal Beach, CA/Hawai'i Pacific) scored 9 of her career-high 21 points in the quarter while redshirt freshman guard Gracie Castaneda (Arlington, WA) added 6 points and sophomore guard Lexie Bland (Ellensburg, WA) had 5 points in the period. The Vikings outscored the Falcons 25-9 during the quarter and shot 61.5% (8-of-13) from the field.
Castaneda finished a fastbreak layup and was fouled to help start the rally at the 4:31 mark and a pair of 3-pointers by Iwami within the span of just over a minute cut the lead to 54-44 with 2:59 left. WWU scored the last five points of the third quarter, including a 3-pointer by Bland with 38 seconds left, to come within 56-50. The Vikings defense limited the Falcons to two points for the first six minutes of the period after SPU had scored 27 in the second quarter.
The Falcons outscored WWU 19-12 in the final quarter to deny the complete comeback. After SPU built a 61-51 lead with a 5-0 spurt to start the quarter, the Vikings cut the deficit to 61-55 with 5:59 left on a layup by junior center Nikki Corbett (Camas, WA). But a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by SPU guard Rachel Shim stretched the lead back out to 69-55 with 4:12 left and the Vikings were unable to come any closer than 10 point the rest of the way.
"I thought we didn't play with confidence in the first half, and that put us in a pretty big hole," head coach Carmen Dolfo said. "We regrouped at halftime and I thought they played really hard in that third quarter and the second half in general. We battled tonight and I am proud of how the team didn't give up and played extremely hard all the way to the end of the game."
The Falcons had built a 20-10 lead after the first quarter, making 7-of-10 shots from the field to begin the game and shooting 60.0% (9-for-15) for the period. SPU used an 8-1 run to pull away from an early 9-7 advantage en route to the first-quarter lead.
Iwami hit a 3-pointer for the first points of the second quarter to bring WWU within 20-13 but the Falcons responded with a 10-2 run and later used a 13-0 run to build a 32-21 lead to 45-21 with just under a minute before halftime.
During the career-best scoring performance, Iwami scored 18 points from 3-point range (6-of-16 3-pointers) and added 3 assists as well as 3 steals. Her 16 3-pointers attempted was a school-record total while her 6 made 3-point field goals were the most by a WWU player during the 2017-18 season.
Castaneda added 12 points and tied for the game high with 4 assists while Bland finished with 11 points, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Forward Courtney Hollander led the Falcons with 20 points while Shim added 11 points. Guard Riley Evans contributed 9 points while forward Erica Pagano had 8 points.
WWU finished 22-of-58 from the field (37.9%) and was 8-of-26 (30.8%) from long range. The Vikings were 11-of-15 (73.3%) at the free throw line.
The Falcons shot 48.1% (26-of-54) from the field, making 7-of-21 (33.3%) from 3-pionr range and 16-of-22 (72.7%) at the free throw line.
The Vikings remain at home for one more game prior to four straight road games, hosting Saint Martin's on Saturday at 7 pm. WWU has 999 all-time victories in program history and will look to become the 15th team in women's college basketball history, according to available records, to reach the 1,000 wins milestone. Fans unable to attend WWU games can follow the action via WWUVikings.com/Live.
Game Notes: WWU is 999-351 (.740) all-time in its 47-year history, a win shy of reaching 1,000 all-time wins to become the 15th team in women's college basketball history to reach the mark (according to available NCAA and NAIA records)...Dani Iwami scored a career-high 21 points...set a WWU single-game record attempting 16 3-pointers (6-for-16), breaking the old mark of 15 set by Katie Colard at Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 6, 2014...the six made field goals from 3-point range was a season-high by a WWU player...Vikings faced their largest halftime deficit of the season on Thursday against SPU (47-26)...SPU snapped a five-game WWU win streak in the series between the teams with the win on Thursday.
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