BELLINGHAM - The No. 2-ranked Vikings are still perfect, barely.
Call it luck, or give credit to WWU's suffocating defense in the final minute and in overtime.
Thanks to several missed opportunities by SPU and veteran play towards the end by Western, the Vikings knocked off No. 4-ranked SPU 83-76 in a wild back-and-forth GNAC contest Saturday, Feb. 2, at Carver Gym in front of 2,490 in attendance.
"We just pulled together as a family down the stretch," said WWU forward Austin Bragg, who finished with a team-high 20 points. "They took a lead on us, and they missed some free throws that really gave us a chance. We capitalized. It was just a great team win."
SPU's Riley Stockton buried a corner 3-pointer with 1:21 left in the game to give the Falcons a 69-66 lead.
Western failed to score on its next two possessions but was bailed out by four missed free throws in a row by Seattle Pacific's Jobi Wall and David Downs.
Cameron Severson made two free throws to cut SPU's lead to 69-68 with 16 seconds to go, and WWU got the ball back after the Vikings' denial defense on the ensuing inbounds generated a five-second call.
Rico Wilkins was fouled on Western's next possession and calmly drilled both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to give WWU a 70-69 lead with 14 seconds left.
Stockton drove the length of the court and missed a 3 with 7 seconds left, but SPU's Alex Weber-Brader was fouled on the offensive rebound. He missed the first foul shot before making the second to send the game into overtime after Wilkins missed a desperation 3-pointer as time expired.
"Luckily, they missed like five free throws down the stretch," Bragg said. "That really gave us a chance. We made a couple key buckets down the stretch."
The Vikings let the crowd breathe a bit easier in overtime.
Free throws by Cameron Severson and Richard Woodworth, and a bucket by Wilkins, gave Western a 78-76 lead with 2:17 left in OT.
SPU went cold down the stretch, and Allen and Severson sealed the game with six points in the final minute.
"SPU in general is a tough game," Bragg said, "and when they are as good as they are this year, it's really tough no matter where you are. We're probably going to see them one more time in the regionals, and that will be a real fun game."
The win is the 25th straight dating back to last season. It was also Western's 21st home win in a row, which sets a new school record that had stood since 1972.
Bragg had 11 boards to go with his 20 points. Severson scored 16 points, Woodworth scored 14 and Chris Mitchell and John Allen scored 12 points in the win.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
WESTERN WASHINGTON 83, SEATTLE PACIFIC 76
SEATTLE PACIFIC (16-3, 9-2 GNAC)
Downs,David 20; Hutsen,Cory 14; Poling,Andy 13; Simon,Patrick 11; Wall,Jobi 9; Weber-Brader,Alex 6; Stockton,Riley 3; Morse,Scott 0; Todd,Ryan 0. Totals 27-62 14-25 76.
WESTERN WASHINGTON (20-0, 11-0 GNAC)
Bragg,Austin 20; Severson,Cameron 16; Woodworth,Richard 14; Allen,John 12; Mitchell,Chris 12; Wilkins,Rico 6; Turner,Anye 3; Jones,Paul 0. Totals 26-57 23-26 83.
Half: WWU 37, SP 35. Reg: 70-70
3-point goals--Seattle Pacific 8-19 (Downs,David 4), Western Washington 8-21 (Mitchell,Chris 3). Fouled out-Seattle Pacific-Simon,Patrick, Western Washington-Turner,Anye. Rebounds-Seattle Pacific 31 (Stockton,Riley 6), Western Washington 38 (Bragg,Austin 11). Assists--Seattle Pacific 13 (Downs,David 5), Western Washington 11 (Allen,John 4). Total fouls--Seattle Pacific 21, Western Washington 22. Technical fouls--Seattle Pacific-None, Western Washington-Turner,Anye. A-2490