FAIRBANKS — For the Alaska Nanooks women’s basketball team, Tuesday night’s
84-40 win over Dallas Christian College in the Patty Center was a confidence-booster, fundamentals-emphasizer and an early prep for Great Northwest Athletic Conference play.
It also gave the previously winless Nanooks their first taste this season of back-to-back victories, as Alaska won 96-50 against the Crusaders of the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association Division II.
“It’s truly a mental game when you know your competition coming in or you’ve beat them already,” Nanooks head coach Cody Burgess said in the postgame media conference in the Nanook Lounge.
“So we really wanted to focus on execution of our offense and intensity on defense,” Burgess said. “We tried different people and with so many kids, it’s hard to give them all a chance because the clock is ticking. The kids stepped in and did a good job, and for the most part I’m pleased with the effort.”
The Nanooks men’s team later won 97-62 in an exhibition game against Multnomah University, one night after cruising to a 124-59 outcome against the Lions, of Portland, Ore., and NCCAA Division II.
The Alaska men used the two contests against the Lions to help get ready for GNAC action on the road, facing Central Washington on Jan. 3 and Northwest Nazarene on
“If we wouldn’t have played these two games, we would have had a month off between games,” Nanooks men’s head coach Mick Durham said of Tuesday’s contest. “So I think you need to stay somewhat in game shape, stay game sharp and execute regardless of
Burgess took advantage of a rare opportunityto clear her bench, using all 13 players.
Freshman guard Greer Kleber, until the Dallas Christian series, rarely saw action, appearing in only two games for a total of six minutes and scoring no points. She capitalized on her 13 minutes Tuesday, chipping in seven points and three rebounds.
Among her contributions was an alley-oop jump shot with 2 minutes left in the game, courtesy of an inbounds pass from sophomore guard Kelly Logue, who had a game-high four assists for the 2-7 Nanooks.
“It was definitely a confidence booster and now I know I can go out there and hit shots when I’m open,” Kleber said.
All but two Alaska players scored Tuesday and four contributed double-digit points — senior guard Taylor Altenburg with a game-high 13; junior guard April Fultz with 11; and 10 each from junior reserves Marissa Atoruk (guard) and Samantha Thornton (forward).
Altenburg saw the sweep as mentally beneficial, particularly when the Nanooks resume play Jan. 3 and 5 in the Patty Center with GNAC games, respectively, against Simon Fraser and Western Washington. Both opponents also are in the latest USA Today Sports NCAA Division II Top 25 Coaches Poll — Simon Fraser at No. 9 and Western Washington at No. 20.
“They’re (Dallas Christian) a good team and we got a lot of practice and we really focused on what we wanted to accomplish,” said Altenburg, “and it gives us that momentum coming into our next game.”
Altenburg and Thornton matched Dallas Christian forward Jessalyn Flowers with a game-high nine rebounds.
Junior guards Alison McGinnis and Whitney Williams scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, to lead the 1-13 Crusaders, who had only seven players for the series.
“We have seven players who come out with no fear and we just try to play the whole 40 minutes without playing too badly,” McGinnis said. “We just take it as the way it is and try to learn from it and move on.”
All but one of the Crusaders was playing with an injury Tuesday.
“We just play through our injuries, because there’s really no other way we can,” Flowers said. “We’re just playing for each other.”
So were the Nanooks.
The game didn’t count toward either team’s record or individual statistics, but the Nanooks got a wake-up in the first 2:03 of the game.
The Lions jumped out to an
8-0 lead, sparked by 3-pointers from guards and team-high scorers Austin Hodges (20 points) and Steven Bustrin (13).
“We know we’re a little bit outmatched size wise, but we wanted to stay together and get better as a team,” Hodges said. “We didn’t come here to win this game, we came to prepare to win a national championship at our level.”
The Lions placed third in last year’s NCCAA national tournament.
The Nanooks did want to win Tuesday, especially with GNAC play looming in 15 days.
“We came out flat and we’re weren’t ready and they came out storming,” said junior point guard Pat Vouet, who had a game-high 23 points, including a layup that put Alaska ahead 11-9 for good with 14:12 left in the first half.
“They were picking our defense apart, going through the lane trying to findg an open shooter, and we just had to come back,” said Vouet, who matched Bustrin’s game-high six assists. “We couldn’t allow that to happen, so we just got more focused throughout the game.”
The Nanooks shot 55.6 percent from the field (21 for 40) compared to Multnomah’s 37.9 percent (10 for 29).
Alaska had four other juniors score in double figures. Forward Stefan Tica provided 19 points; guard Ronnie Baker and forward Dallen Bills had 12 apiece; and center Sergei Pucar scored 10. Pucar and Bills each grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.