Rogers goes into the paint for a difficult layup against the Nanooks. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin
By Alex Barnes
Western women’s basketball got back to winning ways against the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks in their Saturday, Feb. 2 “Pink Night” game in Sam Carver Gymnasium.
To celebrate Pink Night, a moment of applause was observed for members of the crowd affected by cancer.
The Vikings dominated the game from start to finish, leading after all four quarters, and extended their lead by as many as 32 points in the second half before going on to win the game by a final score of 66-36.
“I loved how the team came out tonight and put the last few games behind them, and had one of the best team performances of the season,” head coach Carmen Dolfo said after the Vikings ended a three game losing streak.
The Vikings set the defensive tone early, often employing a suffocating full-court press that forced 23 Nanooks turnovers throughout the course of the game.
“I’m super proud of the team, everyone stepped up,” said junior center Anna Schwecke, who helped lead the way on defense with a season-high four steals along with two blocks. “We were working really hard on our defense this week, and to see everyone play fundamentally, defensively, it’s just so exciting.”
That defense held the Nanooks to just 36 points on the night, which is not only the fewest points the Vikings have allowed this season, but the fewest points any team in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference has allowed this season, according to Western Athletics.
“[The defense was] really intense, I thought people were looking to pressure a lot tonight, making it hard for them. It was fun to see,” sophomore center Kelsey Rogers said.
The Vikings often turned that stellar defense into offense, scoring 20 of their points off of Nanooks turnovers.
“We’ve learned that our defense sets the tone for our offense, so if we can get stops, we can start to run, which is what we’re good at,” Schwecke said.
The Vikings mixed their solid transition offense with hard-fought inside play, outscoring the Nanooks 38-12 in the paint. Rogers was a big part of that interior play, leading the Vikings in scoring with 17 points on top of six rebounds.
“I personally love playing in the post,” Rogers said. “I love playing with our other posts, and I think we find each other well. We’re really hard to stop.”
Despite the win, the focus of the players immediately shifted to the next game, and the the time they have in practice to prepare for it.
“[We] realize that we have a long way to go, and [we want to] get better every day,” Rogers said.
The win gives the Vikings an overall record of 11-9 for the season, and a 6-6 record in conference play.
“I think this game was a huge turning point for us, so we’re all really excited to get back in the gym this week to get better… and just focus on keeping this momentum going,” Schwecke said.
The Vikings will have a five-day break before they take on the Western Oregon University Wolves at the Physical Education Building in Monmouth, Oregon on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m..