Thurday’s meeting between rivals UAA and UAF featured two of the biggest starts in the GNAC. Seawolves’ guard Suki Wiggs and Alaska Fairbanks’ forward Travante Williams have been making noise in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and fans have taken notice. Prior the game on Feb. 11, Wiggs led the GNAC in points per game, was third in rebounds, and fifth in steals. Williams’ 18.1ppg was good for third in the conference, while also being third in three-pointers made and leading all players in steals per game. The last time these two faced off on Jan. 16, Wiggs got the best of Williams, outscoring him 30 to 18, and snagging a 100-91 win in overtime up in Fairbanks.
This time around, the back-and-forth affair between the two Alaskan colleges ended with a 76-71 victory for the Seawolves, the 20th time they have beaten the Nanooks in their last 21 match ups. Despite this being their fourth game in eight days, the travel and grueling games did not seem to drain any spirit from UAA.
“We had such good energy in the locker room and in the warmups that we didn’t think about how tired we were” said guard Drew Peterson.
The game began with the two teams alternating buckets, causing eight lead changes in just the first 11 minutes. Williams got the ball rolling early, scoring ten of UAF’s first 15 points. UAA tried answering back, but could not find their rhythm against the Nanooks’ 2-3 zone. With Wiggs shooting just 2-10 in the first half, Corey Hammell’s offensive rebounds and senior Brian McGill’s sharp shooting kept the Seawolves in the game at the half, trailing 33-31.
Each team began the second half with their own run. UAA answered UAF’s scoring spree by knocking down five straight shots while holding the Nanooks to 1-6 from the floor. Wiggs drilled four of his next five field goals, and the two rivals found themselves with the game tied at 50 with 11:24 remaining.
A pair of Travante Williams’ free throws gave UAF a 56-54 advantage. On the following possession, McGill found guard Drew Peterson for a three-pointer to give UAA the lead for good.
“I just told myself to trust my shot.” said Peterson.
Peterson scored 12 of his career-high 14 points in the second half to help lift the Seawolves.
“Drew is a very accomplished player…and I am really happy he was able to show everyone what he is capable of.” said head coach Rusty Osborne.
With the game still up for grabs, UAA big-man Corey Hammell and UAF star Travante Williams got tangled up under the basket, followed by some shoving and jawing. Both players were issued technicals, however neither were given a flagrant foul.
“That is just two competitors not backing down. I don’t think there was anything malicious on either one’s part” said Osborne.
The Seawolves had a nine-point lead with under a minute left in the game, until UAF forward Bangaly Kaba nailed a three, making the score 74-68 with 27 seconds left. On the pursuing inbounds, UAA turned it over and the ball bounced right into Kaba’s hands, where he hit another three to make it just a one possession game with 24 seconds left. Two Peterson free throws and a Kaba miss sealed the win for the Seawolves.
Brian McGill had a game-high 28 points and is now in the top-15 on UAA’s all-time scoring list. Wiggs totaled 20 points and 10 boards while Corey Hammell had 15 rebounds. As for Alaska Fairbanks, Williams finished with 22 points, while Kaba tallied 18 points.
The Men’s basketball team now has a full week off, and will host Concordia on Thursday Feb. 18, and Western Oregon the following Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.