A school-record 30-game winning streak that lasted nearly a calendar year came to an end Thursday, Feb. 21, as Western Washington University fell to University of Alaska Fairbanks 77-73 in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest at the Patty Center on the UAF campus.
The defending NCAA Division II national champion Vikings, ranked No. 2 for the fifth straight time in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 and No. 1 in the West Region rating, fell to 24-1 overall and 15-1 in the GNAC. Guard John Allen had a game-high 33 points for WWU.
UAF improved to 14-9 overall and 9-6 in the GNAC. Center Sergej Pucar had 26 points and seven rebounds for the Nanooks. Ronnie Baker had 18 points, and guard Dominque Brinson, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:10 left, added 13 points.
Brinson's trey gave UAF a 69-66 lead and the margin eventually extended to five, 73-68, on a pair of Andrew Kelly free throws with 1:19 left.
The Vikings closed the gap to three on a pair of Richard Woodworth free throws with 51 seconds to go, and after Brinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, WWU had a chance to tie, but Austin Bragg rimmed out with 22 seconds left, and the Nanooks made 5-of-6 free throws to keep the Vikings at bay.
It was the first loss for WWU since an 82-78 defeat to Montana State-Billings in the GNAC tournament on March 2, 2012. The Vikings then won six straight games to claim the NCAA Division II National Championship, and had won 24 games this year to extend the streak to 30. Both the 30 overall wins and the 24 triumphs to start a season were school and GNAC records.
Forward Paul Jones had 11 points for the Vikings, who shot just 37.5 percent (24 of 64) from the field, their second lowest mark of the season.
The Nanooks led throughout the first half, using a run of 10 straight points to take a 23-12 lead with 12:14 left in period. UAF led, 36-30, at halftime. The Vikings used a run of 10 straight points, the first eight by Allen, early in the second half to take a 43-40 lead. Their last lead was at 53-51 on a Rico Wilkins 3-pointer with 8:49 remaining.
WWU entered the contest third nationally in 3-point percentage defense, holding teams to 27.8 percent behind the arc, but UAF shot 45.0 percent (9 of 20), the best accuracy for a Viking opponent in the last 19 games.
ALASKA FAIRBANKS 77, WESTERN WASHINGTON 73
WESTERN WASHINGTON (24-1, 15-1 GNAC)
Allen,John 33; Jones,Paul 4-10 3-3 11; Mitchell,Chris 8; Woodworth,Richard 7; Bragg,Austin 6; Wilkins,Rico 3; Severson,Cameron 3; Turner,Anye 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-64 18-20 73.
ALASKA FAIRBANKS (14-9, 9-6 GNAC)
Pucar,Sergej 26; Baker,Ronnie 18; Brinson,Dominique 13; Kelly,Andrew 9; Tica,Stefan 6; Ngawaka,Zach 3; Bills,Dallen 1; Voeut,Pat 1; Pierson,Cody 0. Totals 25-58 18-22 77.
Half: AF 36, WWU 30
3-point goals--Western Washington 7-27 (Allen,John 4), Alaska 9-20 (Brinson,Dominique 3; Pucar,Sergej 3). Fouled out-Western Washington-Mitchell,Chris; Severson,Cameron, Alaska-None. Rebounds-Western Washington 38 (Bragg,Austin 9), Alaska 38 (Kelly,Andrew 11). Assists--Western Washington 6 (Allen,John 2; Woodworth,Richard 2; Wilkins,Rico 2), Alaska 17 (Voeut,Pat 9). Total fouls--Western Washington 17, Alaska 17. Technical fouls--Western Washington-None, Alaska-None. A-430
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.