Fairbanks – You wouldn’t have known from watching him but Brad Oleson played on an injured ankle against UAA. After the University of Alaska Fairbanks senior lit up the Patty Center scoreboard the thing hurting was the Seawolves’ pride.
Oleson scored a career-high 39 points and had an answer for anything UAA brought his way to lead UAF to a 91-80 win over the visiting Seawolves Jan. 27. Oleson added a game-high nine rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Nanooks.
First-year UAF head coach Frank Ostanik, who has been with the Fairbanks program for 15 years as a player and an assistant, was in awe of the show Oleson put on in front a boisterous UAF crowd.
“That was one of the greatest performances in the history of this building, maybe the best,” Ostanik said. “I’ve said the last three years that he is the best player to ever play here. He’s a special player.”
Oleson came out firing on all cylinders. The North Pole native made his first four shots including three three-pointers with UAA defenders playing him tightly. Before UAA knew it, Oleson had 13 points and UAF had a 29-13 lead with 9:25 left in the first half.
“I just wanted to go out there and attack early,” Oleson said. “I didn’t want to wait until the second half to get them down.”
UAA struggled in the first half to get shots to fall despite getting good looks at the basket from the outside. The Seawolves shot just 33 percent in the half and Adam Fitt-Chappell, usually one of the teams strongest outside threats, hit just 2-of-10 shots in the first half.
“I’ll take the looks that he had in the first half every game,” UAA head coach Rusty Osborne said. “It was just one of those nights they weren’t going down for him.”
When the Seawolves ventured inside they were met by UAF’s shot-blocking duo of Andrew Smith and Ivan Miscovic, who blocked or altered at least 10 shots in the first half. UAF used the defense, along with Oleson’s offense, to stake a 44-33 halftime lead.
After scoring 17 in the first half, Oleson outdid himself in the second. He started the half with a four-point play, nailed 5-of-6 treys and grabbed seven boards. And he did all on a bum ankle.
“It doesn’t look like it but I swear his ankle hurts him,” Ostanik said. “We don’t have a lot of tough kids right now. But he is the toughest.”
If Oleson needed a painkiller, he got it in the form of a noisy Patty Center crowd of 1,341.
“I didn’t even feel my ankle. There were too many fans out there,” Oleson said. “They really came out and supported us. I was glad to see it because in Anchorage the fans come get us.”
UAA hung tight throughout the game but every time the Seawolves made a run to get the lead under 10, Chris Jordan (18 points, six boards and five assists) and Oleson had the answer for UAF.
“It was too much Brad Oleson,” Osborne said. “Every time they needed a bucket, he’d get a big bucket. That’s why he’s player of the year in the league.”
The Seawolves stayed close behind the play of James Hartman, who is battling a fractured hand and a bum ankle. Hartman scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half and grabbed eight rebounds but UAA got no closer than eight points.
“I think James Hartman showed big time heart. People are starting to see, as he gets healthier and more comfortable playing again, how good a player her can be,” Osborne said. “He carried us in the second half.”