Led by a 25-point second quarter, the Vikings beat the nationally-ranked University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves 71-64 Thursday, Jan. 23 at Sam Carver Gymnasium. UAA ranks fourth in the D2SIDA Media Poll and fifth in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association poll. This is the first time Western has won against a top-five team since 2015.
“We have full confidence we can beat anyone,” junior guard Emma Duff said. “We know [Anchorage] is a good team and we know how they’re gonna play but our coaches do such a good job scouting them and getting us ready.”
With Thursday’s win, Western put a stop to Anchorage’s winning streak of 13-straight games, bringing the number one team in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s record to 18-2.
“It feels so good, especially after our win last weekend and then to kind of build on that during this game,” said junior guard Gracie Castaneda about beating an 18-win team. On Jan. 18, Western beat Northwest Nazarene University, 94-83 in Nampa, Idaho.
The game against UAA was the Vikings’ best shooting performance this season with 61.7% from the field on 47 shot attempts. Duff led the Vikings with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
“We knew Anchorage was going to be a tough team to beat so I think we were just hyped to play them,” Duff said.
In the last 22 seconds, UAA’s senior guard Sefiyyah Yasin received her fifth foul, fouling out. Junior forward Kelsey Rogers made both free throws, sealing the victory for the Vikings.
According to assistant coach Stacey Turrell, the Vikings were able to beat such a strong team because of their composure and fearlessness.
Anchorage is notorious for being a physical team, according to Turrell and a few of the players that were thrown around the court Thursday.
“They press the whole game and they really beat you up,” Duff said. “So during practice, we definitely tried to focus on that [to] get us used to that and yeah, I think it helps.”
The top two defensive teams in the conference showed major aggression throughout the game: Western had 20 personal fouls, and Anchorage had 17.
Castaneda said that the coaches made sure the women were ready to play under pressure.
“We worked on blocking out a lot because we knew that they’re really good rebounders,” Castaneda said. “Working on ball fakes too, because we knew that they like to go for steals a lot because they’re just super scrappy. So we just worked on really taking care of the ball and rebounding too.”
The Vikings held a significant lead for the first three quarters of the game, until the Seawolves went on a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter.
During the Seawolves run, the Vikings didn’t score for nearly five minutes, allowing Anchorage to start to catch up, bringing the score within 10 points.
“I think we let the pressure get to us a little bit,” Rogers said. “We calmed down quickly and got out of it and that was good.”
Rogers scored 16 points total during the game, shooting 7-for-12, and tied her career high with 4 blocked shots.
Senior guard Lexie Bland put Western back on the board with a 3-pointer with just over four minutes remaining. Bland finished the game with 10 points, and a career high of eight assists.
The Vikings now sit at third place in the GNAC standings, trailing UAA and Northwest Nazarene University. They face Concordia University at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30 at Carver Gym.