FAIRBANKS—The Alaska Nanooks basketball team was aware of Seattle Pacific’s league-leading defense in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. They also knew that the Falcons had the third-best 3-point shooting efficiency among the conference’s 10 teams.
It was the nationally ranked visitors’ deliveries from beyond the arc in the Patty Center that was the difference in a 72-60 loss for the Nanooks in Thursday night’s GNAC opener for both teams.
Seattle Pacific, ranked 13th among NCAA Division II teams in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches Poll, connected on 10 of 15 attempts from beyond the arc for a 66.7 percent night. It was well ahead of the Falcons’ season average of 41.9 percent (52 for 124).
The Falcons’ 3-point efficiency didn’t surprise Nanooks center Sergei Pucar. The 6-foot-11 junior said that he and fellow Alaska returners Stefan Tica and Dominique Brinson were aware of Seattle Pacific forward Jobi Wall, who had 12 of his 14 points from 3-point range, and guard David Downs, whose 12 points included a pair of treys.
“We heard about (Patrick) Simon, too, and we heard they were going to shoot very well,” Pucar said during the postgame media conference in the Nanook Lounge. “Sixty-six percent for the game from beyond the 3-point line is amazing.
“We’ve got to work at better movement in stopping (shooters at) the 3-point line,” added Pucar, who contributed nine points and four rebounds, which matched junior forward Andrew Kelly for Alaska’s team high.
Simon, a 6-8 junior transfer from Division I Washington State, drained four 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 30 points.
“I guess I was just feeling it tonight,” Simon said. “The teammates did a really good job of putting me in position to knock down threes and get some good looks inside.”
The Nanooks (0-1 GNAC, 4-4 overall) ended at 47.8 percent from the field (22 for 46) and they scored nearly five more points than the 55.3 per game that the Falcons defense had been allowing this season. However, Alaska’s effort was overshadowed by a 3-for-17 night for 3-pointers (17.6 percent).
“I thought our energy was good, our scheme was good but they just made shots and we didn’t” Alaska head coach Mick Durham said. “They made their open shots and we didn’t make our open shots. They’re tough on both ends.”
Seattle Pacific’s 3-point prowess led to a 60.4 percent night from the field (29 for 48) for the Falcons (1-0, 5-1).
“Normally, we’re a pretty good shooting team,” said Falcons head coach Ryan Looney, “and thankfully, we did a good job in that area tonight because I felt like we weren’t as good in some other areas.”
One of those areas was containing Nanooks junior point guard Pat Vouet, who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the second half and emerged with a game-high five steals.
“I thought we let Voeut get into the lane a little too much,” Looney said. “We had to get some help and he’s a good enough player to make plays for other people. Hopefully, in time, we can do a better job against guys like him.”
The Falcons did a little better in rebounding Thursday, 25-20. The Nanooks had slightly more offensive boards — 4-2 — but Seattle Pacific had a 23-16 advantage in defensive rebounds.
“All night, they had four guys crashing (the boards) and we just had three,” Kelly said. “Even though we got more offensive rebounds, we weren’t finishing them all the time and their length (height) was a factor, too.”
Seattle Pacific’s Riley Stockton and Cory Hutsen had game-highs of five rebounds apiece.
The Nanooks’ only leads of the game were 2-0 on a Pucar jump shot with 18:19 left in the first half and 4-0 on a Kelly layup with 17:45 to go. The Falcons responded with 3-pointers by Wall and Downs during the next 1 minute, 10 seconds to go ahead for good.
Alaska plays host to Montana State-Billings in a GNAC game at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Yellowjackets lost 79-65 Thursday at No. 25 Alaska Anchorage.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.