No.8 Vikings take sixth straight, defeat Seattle Pacific, 61-44

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Sydney Donaldson
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Sydney Donaldson
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Jan. 17, 2013

Box Score

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Nationally ranked Western Washington University used a run of 13 straight points midway through the second half to break open a tight game and defeat Seattle Pacific University, 61-44, in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference women's basketball contest Thursday at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.

The Vikings, rated No.8 in this week's USA Today Sports/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, improved to 12-2 overall and remained atop the GNAC at 6-0 after their sixth consecutive victory. Forward Sydney Donaldson (So., Edmonds/Edmonds-Woodway) had a team-high 14 points off the bench for WWU and center Britt Harris (Sr., Marysville/Marysville-Pilchuck) added 13 points, all in the second half.

Forward Katie Benson had game-highs of 18 points and 13 rebounds for Seattle Pacific, which fell to 10-5 overall and 4-3 in the GNAC with its third loss in the last four games.

SPU held a 38-35 lead with 12:30 remaining, but the Vikings scored the next 13 points and turned that burst into a 22-2 charge that gave them a 57-40 lead with 3:43 remaining. Harris had seven points and four rebounds in the run, during which WWU had a 12-2 rebound advantage.

Guard Corinn Waltrip (Sr., Tigard, OR) had 11 points for the Vikings, including a 3-pointer with 11:19 to play that put WWU in front to stay, 40-38.

The Falcons jumped to a 10-0 lead just over four minutes into the game as WWU had turnovers on four of its first five possessions. The Vikings rallied with seven straight points of their own to close the gap to 10-7 with 14:22 left in the first half, but despite narrowing the margin to one on three occasions, never caught SPU in the opening half and trailed, 27-22, at halftime.

The Falcons led by as much as seven in the second half before the Vikings responded to take their first lead of the game, 33-32, on a Harris layup with 14:21 left.

WWU shot 41.7 percent (25-of-60) from the field, hitting 54.8 percent (17-of-31) in the second half after being just 8-of-29 (27.6 percent) in the opening period. Harris was 6-of-7 from the field.

Seattle Pacific shot only 23.0 percent (14-of-61) from the field, hitting just one of its last 17shots.

The Vikings are 8-0 at home this season and have won 12 straight at Carver Gym over the last two campaigns.

WWU concludes a three-game home streak with a GNAC counter against Montana State Billings on Saturday (7 p.m.), Jan. 19.

Western recovers from another slow start to beat Seattle Pacific

By DAVID RASBACH -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Western Washington University women's basketball coach Carmen Dolfo has seen enough slow starts in the past week to last her for the rest of the season - perhaps even another 22 years at the helm.

"Oh boy," Dolfo said rolling her eyes. "That one was slow for a long, long time. It was an entire half and then some."

It took 25 minutes for the Vikings to get things rolling on Thursday, Jan. 17, in a showdown with Seattle Pacific, but when they did, there was no stopping them, as NCAA Division II eight-ranked Western came back to grab a 61-44 victory to stay perfect in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. Western used a 22-2 run midway through the second half to erase a seven-point deficit and cruise to the big win.

The Vikings (12-2, 6-0 GNAC) suffered a similar start on Saturday, Jan. 12, when they had to dig themselves out from a sluggish first half to ultimately beat then-seventh-ranked Simon Fraser on a buzzer-beating shot by Britt Harris.

But that performance looked downright sparkling compared to the first 41/2 minutes of Tuesday's game.

The only thing interrupting Western's string of turnovers on its first five possessions was a missed jumper from Katie Colard. In fact, on WWU's first eight trips down the court, the Vikings went 0-3 from the floor and turned the ball over the other five.

And before the Vikings knew it, they were in a 10-0 hole.

"The last few games have been pretty rough at the start," WWU senior Trishi Williams said. "We just haven't come out ready to go. We weren't ready to fight from the beginning."

It's something Williams and WWU know they need to fix - and in a hurry.

"We're going to change our warm-ups on Saturday," Williams said. "We're not getting excited to play, so we're going to have to change things up."

Though things got better when Corinn Waltrip hit a 3-pointer from the right corner off an assist from Colard, it took Western most of the rest of the half to crawl back within one of Seattle Pacific (10-5, 4-3), and even then, the Falcons were able to stretch the advantage back to five, 27-22, the end of the half.

The culprits for Western's slow start were many - everything from poor shooting (8 for 29 field-goal shooting in the half) to not boxing out on the boards (24-15 SPU rebounding edge in the half) to not taking care of the ball (11 first-half turnovers) and even a number of defensive lapses.

About the only thing working for the Vikings in the first half was Sydney Donaldson, who came off the bench to score 10 of her team-high 14 points to keep Western in it.

And things didn't magically get better in the second half, either, as the Falcons were able to stretch their advantage out to seven points when Katie Benson hit a pair of free throws after being fouled on an offensive rebound with 19:05 left to play.

But a 7-0 run by Western over its next seven possessions tied the game at 31 when Williams made one of two free throws, and the Vikings took their first lead of the game two possessions later, when Waltrip fed Harris for a fast-break layup off a Seattle Pacific miss.

After the two teams traded the lead a couple of times, WWU again found itself down 38-35 with 12:35 to play when Michelle Teng hit a lay-up. But on the Vikings' next possession, Williams hit a runner off an assist from Colard to ignite a 22-2 run by the Vikings over the next 8:46.

"We just started working harder," Williams said of the run. "We picked up our intensity on defense. When we play good defense, it leads to easy buckets at the other end and gives us the momentum we need. Our defense is the key to everything."

During the run, Western forced three turnovers and held the Falcons to 1-for-8 shooting from the field. Most importantly, they didn't allow a second-chance shot attempt.

Prior to run, the Falcons held a double-digit rebounding advantage in the game, but during the run, the Vikings won the rebounding battle 14-4.

"I think we started to do the little things that you need to do to be successful rebounding," said Williams, who led Western with eight boards. "Early on, we weren't fighting and scrapping and boxing out - those things you need to do to win rebounds. We started doing that, and it made a big difference."

By the time the run ended with 2:27 to play on a pair of Benson free throws, Western suddenly held a comfortable 57-42 lead.

The Vikings held the Falcons to 15.2-percent shooting (5 for 33) in the second half, including a number of misses from inside the paint.

Harris scored all of her team-high 13 points in the second half, while Waltrip also finished in double figures with 11. In addition to her eight rebounds, Williams had a nice all-around game with seven points, five steals and a game-high five assists.

Benson recorded a double-double for Seattle Pacific with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but Aubree Callen, with nine points, was the only other Falcon to score more than four.

Not only was Tuesday's win Western's sixth straight, but it was the second during a big homestand against the Vikings' top three competitors for the conference title. WWU hopes to complete the sweep and get a little cushion in the GNAC standings when it faces second-place Montana State-Billings at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19.

"It's tough to face these three teams in a row," Dolfo said. "Ideally, you'd like a little breathing room. But it's like this for everybody in our league. Seattle Pacific's got Simon Fraser and then Montana State. But really, nobody's easy in this league. I was thinking about it the other day, after this, we've got tough trips to Central and NNU. Nothing's easy."

But it's a whole lot easier when you don't have to worry about digging out of an early hole.