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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Western loses third consecutive game, Alaska Fairbanks completes comeback

The Vikings surrendered a double-digit first half lead to fall 96-85 in hard-fought offensive contest

By Connor J. Benintendi

Western’s men’s basketball team suffered their third consecutive loss on Thursday, Feb. 6 against the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks at Sam Carver Gymnasium, 96-85.

The team’s record fell to 13-8 overall and they enter a now three-way tie for second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, with an 8-5 conference record. 

Alaska Fairbanks moved to 9-12 overall and is now a part of the second-place tie, which also includes Northwest Nazarene University who beat Western on Jan. 30.

Western returned home on Thursday following a four-game road trip in which they lost three games. The team has now lost four of their last five games, after winning the preceding eight.

“We’re going to be alright,” Vikings senior forward Trevor Jasinsky said. “It’s obviously been a tough stretch for us as a team, but we trust each other.”

It was a tale of two halves as the Vikings took an 11-point lead into halftime, but saw it decimated by Alaska Fairbanks’ junior guard Shadeed Shabazz’s 33 second half points.

Shabazz’s 43 total points tied both his career-high and the most points scored by a player in Sam Carver Gymnasium in a single game — a feat that’s occurred only two other times in the gym’s near 60-year history, according to WWU Athletics.

“Shadeed is a great player,” Jasinsky said. “He had a crazy [second] half and sometimes that happens.”

Jasinsky said although his team played great in the first half, they need to focus on closing out games and playing better defense.

Western was outscored 65-43 in the second half. Alaska Fairbanks’ 96 points marks the most points the Vikings have given up on defense all season.

Western made three more shots than Alaska Fairbanks but had 14 less points at the free-throw line and shot 26.1% from 3-point range.

Western made 54.5% of their shots, to Alaska Fairbanks’ 54.1%, handing the Vikings their first loss this season when converting their shots more efficiently than their opponent. They are now 12-1 when shooting a higher percentage than the opposing team, and 1-7 when shooting a lower percentage. 

Senior center Logan Schilder had four blocks and a career-high 19 points, but was only concerned about the team postgame.

“The first half we were playing team basketball,” Schilder said. “In the second half we came out and played a lot of individual [basketball].”

Senior forward Cameron Retherford expressed similar concern about trust.

“It’s all about our unity right now, and how we fight back,” Retherford said. “We have adversity that is hitting us, but we’re a brotherhood and we’ve got to stay together.”

Western was efficient offensively, exceeding their team per-game averages on the season in both points, assists and shooting percentage.

The Vikings had four players score double-digit points with sophomore forward Jalen Green adding 17, while redshirt-freshman D’Angelo Minnis had 16 points. 

Redshirt-senior forward Siaan Rojas rounded out the group scoring 13 points and tallying a career-high ten assists. Rojas’ double-digit assists mark the first time a Viking has done so since Trey Drechsel in 2017 against Douglas College, according to WWU Athletics.

Western broke their tough stretch on Saturday, Feb. 8, as they played the 14-10 Alaska Anchorage Seawolves at home, before going on the road to Monmouth, Oregon, to take on the Western Oregon Wolves who sit at 13-6, Feb. 13. The Vikings defeated both teams earlier this season.

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