The Western Washington University men’s basketball team welcomed back fans with a close-fought 83 to 81 win against Northwest Nazarene on Thursday, Jan. 28.
Sam Carver Gymnasium was full of energy in the first game back with fans. During the media timeouts, Western and its sponsors put on contests. There was a “make a shot from your seat” challenge and a full-court and half-court shot contest for some cash. They also did a “name that song” challenge.
The Vikings pulled out a narrow win, in part to a career-high 25 points from junior forward Jalen Green. Green shot nine of 14 from the field and six of seven from the line.
Early in the second half, Green got his third foul and had to take a seat.
“It was probably right when I got my third foul,” Green said. “That moment I knew it was gonna be a good night.”
The game went back and forth from the tip-off to the final. In the first half, the teams traded multiple 5-0 runs. No team held more than a 5 point lead. The Nighthawks led going into the half 50-45.
Neither team had a big run until late into the second half, when the Nighthawks went on an 8-0 run from being down 1. That put them up 75-68. Western promptly responded with a 9-0 run. The teams traded points until the final buzzer.
Western coach Tony Dominguez talked about what he told his team down the stretch in this close game.
“We need to be calm and remember our rules,” Dominguez said. “We definitely want to contest shots and not foul in a one or two-point game.”
Down the stretch, Western began to lock up their defense. In the last six minutes, the Nighthawks shot one of 11 from the field. Green capped off the great finish with a monster block, up one with under a minute left.
Western had to deal with foul troubles early in the second half when senior guard RJ Secrest picked up his fourth foul and Jalen Green picked up his third. Lucas Holden and Kai Johnson made a ton of plays off the bench.
Junior Lucas Holden finished with a season-high 14 points. Holden was in attack mode all night, shooting seven of nine from the free-throw line.
“I was seeing that they were spread out on defense, so I knew I was able to get to the basket,” Holden said. “I knew because of my three-point percentage they would run out at me, so I was able to go by them.”
With five minutes left, RJ Secrest picked up his fifth foul and was out of the game. Kai Johnson had an opportunity to come in and make plays. Johnson got a couple of steals, a layup, a few rebounds and some great passes.
“Kai is a hidden gem,” Dominguez said. “It has been tough to get some minutes. We have tried to tinker with our lineup. Kai is very very good.”
Western basketball really benefited from the energy added by the crowd. Other sports and teams will benefit from this with a lot of home sporting events coming up.
Drew McFall (He/him) is a sports and recreation writer for the Western Front this quarter. He is a news editorial major with a minor in communications. He wants to be a sports journalist or broadcaster. As a reporter, he wants to focus on WWU sports teams and players. In his free time, he loves watching sports, playing sports, and running on trails.