The University of Alaska Fairbanks men’s basketball team held off a late push from the Simon Fraser Clan to take a 80-74 win at the Patty Center on Thursday.
The win advances the Nanooks to 4-1 GNAC and 5-8 overall, their best start in conference play since the 2015-16 season.
Alaska held an 18-point lead with 6:05 minutes remaining in the game. But the Clan strung together a 16-2 run to make it a 70-66 game with 1:55 remaining.
The Nanooks closed out the remainder of the game going 8-for-10 from the free throw line while the Clan went 4-for-7.
Although the Nanooks struggled off the glass in both halves — UAF was out-rebounded 42-19 — Alaska’s Alex Sommerfield pulled down a board and drew a foul when it mattered most with 23 seconds remaining, putting the Nanooks up by five.
Two seconds later, UAF’s Spencer Sweet made his fifth steal of the night to secure the win.
“I’m very happy for the win, but we can’t let an 18-point lead go with 6:04 to go. We need to keep building on that, stretching the lead out, getting stops and rebounds,” UAF head coach Greg Sparling said.
“We’re not going to get fortunate, like tonight, getting out-rebounded 42-19 especially when we shoot 46 percent from the field. We have to make sure we box off and we can’t have three straight turnovers going down the stretch.”
Nanooks guard and junior transfer Shadeed Shabazz, who entered Thursday’s contest averaging a conference best 28.8 points per game, led the team with 30 points and six steals.
“I just take pride in being able to score on my opponent, but also let them know on the other side I’m not going to give,” Shabazz said after the game.
Spencer Sweet was next best with 23 points and five steals.
The Nanooks return to the Patty Center at 2:15 p.m. Saturday for a conference game against Western Washington.
Northwest Nazarene 88, Alaska 62
The UAF women’s basketball team lost its fourth in a row with an 88-62 setback to the Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks.
The Nanooks, 6-8 overall and 1-4 GNAC, were led by guard Sabrina Ungaro's 15 points and game-high four assists.
Zosha Krupa came off the bench and contributed 12 points and Sam Tolliver scored 11. Jocelyn Gandara led the Nanooks with seven rebounds.
Avery Albrecht had game highs of 21 points and nine rebounds in the eighth win in a row for the visitors from Nampa, Idaho.
Clare Eubanks provided 15 points and Marina Valles had 14 points to go with a game-high four steals for the Nighthawks, 10-3 overall and 5-0 GNAC for a first-place tie with the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.
The Nanooks host the Central Washington Wildcats in a GNAC game at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Patty Center.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports. News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin contributed to this report.