Wins in Anchorage have been rare for the University of Alaska Fairbanks women’s basketball team. Coming into their Jan. 15 match-up with UAA, the Nanooks had lost their last two at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex and were 5-29 all-time in Anchorage.
In their latest trip, the Nanooks exorcised some of their Sports Complex demons with an 83-50 domination of their in-state rivals in front of a packed house of 998 fans.
“The Anchorage fans are brutal,” UAF junior guard Valerie Hartman said. “It felt really good to come here and whup ‘em.”
UAF senior sharpshooter Adrienne Talaak scored 32 points to ensure that her last game at UAA would be a win. After being swept by the Seawolves last season including a buzzer beating shot in Fairbanks, Talaak and the Nanooks kept their eyes on the schedule.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game pretty much all year,” Talaak said. “It feels good.”
After UAA’s Amber Nasby opened the game with a jumper, the Nanooks responded with a 19-3 run to go up 15 with 9:40 left in the first half. They never looked back. The Seawolves (6-8 overall, 1-4 GNAC) never cut the lead 14 and the lead bulged to as much as 37 in the second half.
“We just didn’t compete in any way, shape or form,” UAA head coach Jody Hensen said. “They took it at us on both ends and we didn’t respond.”
Fairbanks (6-8, 2-3) went to their high-scoring duo of Talaak and center Cody Burgess early and often. The top two scorers in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference both average 20 points a game. Burgess was held to 12 points but Talaak picked up the slack scoring from deep, driving through the UAA defense for lay-ups and hitting 10-of-11 free throws. All despite rolling her ankle during the team shoot around five hours before tip-off
“For a senior to step up in games like this is obviously what a coach wants,” UAF head coach Lynne Andrew said.
By contrast, UAA’s top two scorers were both held to single digits. Center Taylor Long, who averages 13points a game, finished with seven points on 1-of-6 shooting. Leading scorer Stephanie Beason finished with eight points on just 2-of-4 shooting. The duo were the focus of the UAF defensive game plan all week.
“We knew their key players and focused on them knowing their other players are just role players,” Hartman said. “It really took them out of their game and they didn’t what to do.”
Beason was hounded all night by Talaak and couldn’t get the open looks she is accustomed to.
“We always talk about the offensive end but Adrienne stepped it up and guarded Beason well,” Andrew said.
The unsung hero for the Nanooks was the diminutive but scrappy Hartman. The 5-2 point guard finished with 10 points and seven assists but also grabbed seven rebounds and was in the middle of almost every scramble for loose balls. When Hartman had the ball she protected it with only two turnovers in the game.
“We wouldn’t be much without her,” Andrew said. “She’s really the leader out there.”
UAA, who still leads the all-time series with UAF 44-27, shot just 32 percent from the field, 58 percent from the line and turned the ball over 25 times. But the biggest thing missing was the intensity expected of a game against an in-state rival.
“I don’t understand how you can play your instate rival and not be ready to play at home,” Hensen said. “There’s no excuse. It’s unacceptable.”