BELLINGHAM - So many times during Western Washington University's 36-game home win streak, the Vikings found ways to pull out improbable, even miraculous, victories to stay perfect on their home court.
The Carver Gym magic finally ran out against conference rival Seattle Pacific.
The Falcons took early control, and despite WWU's efforts, there was no comeback bid this time as SPU earned a decisive 76-60 Great Northwest Athletic Conference win during a ROOT Sports televised game Wednesday, Jan. 15, in Bellingham.
"They beat us in the aspects we try to do better than the other teams, like rebounding and 3-point shooting," WWU forward Austin Bragg said.
The last time Western suffered a home loss was Jan. 7, 2012, when the Vikings lost 83-73 to Western Oregon, and Wednesday's win gave the Falcons (14-4, 5-2 GNAC) a half-game lead over No. 19-ranked Western (10-4, 4-2 GNAC) in the early conference race.
SPU's win was another chapter in an already-heated rivalry, which has seen the Vikings win six of the team's last eight matchups. Western has beaten Seattle Pacific each of the past two seasons in the West Regional final to advance to the Elite Eight.
Bragg, WWU's scoring leader entering Wednesday, finished with 14 points, and Anye Turner recorded a team-high 15 with five rebounds. Senior guard Richard Woodworth, who came in averaging 17.1 points per game, scored a season-low four points and seemed to be still nursing his ankle, which he injured four days ago against Simon Fraser.
The Vikings were also playing their first full game without injured starting redshirt freshman Joey Schreiber, who is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with facial fractures he suffered against Simon Fraser.
"Sure you could say that," said Bragg, when asked whether or not Schreiber's absence contributed to Western's struggles on the offensive end. "But we played the whole second half against Simon Fraser without him, so I wouldn't attribute it to just that. We were just a little out of flow tonight."
Schreiber was WWU's third-leading scorer with 12.0 points per game, and Western's 60 points marked its season low.
The Vikings shot 46.9 percent from the field, but it was Western's inability to stop SPU big men Patrick Simon, especially in the first half, and Cory Hutsen that made the difference.
Simon, a 6-foot-8 senior, recorded a game-high 29 points and scored 20 of the Falcons' 41 first-half points. He finished 10 of 13 from the field and was 5 of 6 from beyond the arc. Hutsen scored 12 of his 18 points in the first 20 minutes and proved to be a tough matchup in the paint. Guard David Downs also scored 18.
"One of our keys tonight was to slow down Simon in the first half," Bragg said. "He goes for 20, and that went completely against our game plan."
Western never led after the 17:40 mark of the first half when the Vikings held a 4-3 advantage. Seattle Pacific took command of the game, pushing its lead to 21-13 and 29-19 with 5:41 until halftime.
Three straight points by Turner cut the Falcons' lead to single digits with 3:33 left in the half, but Simon responded with a big dunk followed by a 3-pointer to put Seattle Pacific in front, 37-24.
"They had a good game plan and they executed really well," Bragg said.
The second half belonged to SPU.
The Vikings couldn't cut their deficit to less than 11 points even after changing to full-court pressure with 13 minutes to go.
Redshirt freshman Dana Abe gave the Vikings a nice boost off the bench, scoring five straight points when Western was trailing by 18. Dane Thorpe, who finished with six points, also came off the bench in the second half to give WWU some added energy. Besides Turner and Bragg, no other Viking scored more than six points.
"We brought pressure and they broke that press really well tonight," Bragg said. "They executed on offense."
Western, which was shooting 37.3 percent from the 3-point line coming into the night, didn't make its first triple until Jeffrey Parker hit one of his two with 6:31 to play.
The Vikings were also outrebounded 28-21.
"I mean, it was a huge game for us," Bragg said. "The crowd was loud. The fans were so supportive and great, and they are always a great team and we are always going to battle with them. We look forward to when we played them again down the road."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
SEATTLE PACIFIC 76, WESTERN WASHINGTON 60
SEATTLE PACIFIC (14-4, 5-2 GNAC)
Simon,Patrick 10-13 4-6 29; Hutsen,Cory 9-13 0-4 18; Downs,David 4-8 9-10 18; Penner,Mitch 1-3 5-6 7; Carroll,Brendan 1-1 0-1 2; Borton,Matt 0-5 2-2 2; Todd,Ryan 0-0 0-0 0; Stockton,Riley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-44 20-29 76.
WESTERN WASHINGTON (10-4, 4-2 GNAC)
Turner,Anye 7-13 1-4 15; Bragg,Austin 5-9 3-5 14; Parker,Jeffrey 2-3 0-0 6; Thorpe,Dane 2-3 2-2 6; Mitchell,Colby 2-3 2-2 6; Abe,Dana 2-6 1-2 5; Woodworth,Richard 2-7 0-0 4; Harris,Robert 1-5 2-2 4; Oliver,Robert 0-0 0-0 0; Davis,Alfred 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 11-17 60.
Half: SPU 41, WWU 28
3-point goals--Seattle Pacific 6-14 (Simon,Patrick 5-6; Downs,David 1-4; Borton,Matt 0-3; Stockton,Riley 0-1), Western Washington 3-8 (Parker,Jeffrey 2-3; Bragg,Austin 1-3; Woodworth,Richard 0-1; Thorpe,Dane 0-1). Fouled out--Seattle Pacific-Hutsen,Cory, Western Washington-Woodworth,Richard. Rebounds--Seattle Pacific 28 (Borton,Matt 7; Simon,Patrick 7), Western Washington 21 (Bragg,Austin 5; Turner,Anye 5). Assists--Seattle Pacific 11 (Downs,David 4), Western Washington 13 (Woodworth,Richard 4). Total fouls--Seattle Pacific 17, Western Washington 22. Technical fouls-Seattle Pacific-None, Western Washington-None. A-1948
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.