Alex Sommerfield’s three-point shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim and the University of Alaska Fairbanks men’s basketball team fell 66-63 to Central Washington on Thursday after 40 minutes of close back and forth basketball, which featured 11 lead changes with no margin greater than seven points.
Central Washington (15-8 overall, 8-7 GNAC) rolled into the Patty Center riding a four-game win streak, helped in large part by one of the GNAC’s hottest guards Jeryn Lucas.
After tallying 25 points in his game against the Nanooks in which he shot 9-for-19 from the field and 6-for-11 from three-point range, Lucas has tallied 25 or more points in four of the Wildcats’ past five wins.
On the other end of the court, the Nanooks star shooter Shadeed Shabazz, who entered Thursday’s game ranked fourth in the nation in scoring and first in steals, was held to 27 points, more than four points less than his average for conference play.
Shabazz shot 11-for-23 from the field and made three of nine from behind the arc. He was also the only Nanook to make an appearance at the free- throw line, making two of three baskets.
Spencer Sweet was the only other Nanook to reach double figures scoring, finishing with 13 points.
“We fell in love with the three-point line again,” UAF head coach Greg Sparling said after the game. “When we settle for threes, we are an average team or below average.
“Tonight in our building we went to the free-throw line three times. If you want to go look at our board downstairs it said get to the rim. Two foot stop, get to the free-throw line. You can’t win a game of that caliber, only shooting three free throws.”
Twenty-nine of Alaska’s 64 attempts were from three-point range, where they averaged 31%.
The Nanooks entered the conference matchup in a three-way tie for second place, but will not slip in the standings. Because the other second place teams (Western Washington and Northwest Nazarene) both lost Thursday, the Nanooks remain in a similar position.
However, the group of 9-6 teams is now joined by Western Oregon, which beat Western Washington Thursday.
The Nanooks now take on fellow second place team Northwest Nazarene at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Patty Center.
Prior to the game, the Nanooks athletic department honored Sparling for earning his 400th career win with their 96-85 road victory against Western Washington on Feb. 6.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.