ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Owning the glass and outlasting visiting Montana State University Billings down the stretch Thursday night, the No. 8 University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team claimed a 73-63 Great Northwest Athletic Conference victory at the Alaska Airlines Center.
UAA held a 46-31 edge in rebounding, and never wavered in the fourth quarter despite a late push by the Yellowjackets. MSUB trailed just 68-63 with 47 seconds left in the game, but the Seawolves generated a key turnover that led to a breakaway layup to turn it into a three-possession game. The ‘Jackets couldn’t get back within striking distance, and dropped their second straight conference game.
“Our players fought hard tonight, but we just didn’t quite make enough plays at the end to come out on top,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We got off to a big start in the third quarter, but their defense was effective against us. Rebounding was a key statistic for us tonight, and their post players are hard to guard. I was happy with our effort tonight. We were close, but just need to execute a little better down the stretch.”
MSUB fell to 15-8 overall with the loss, and moved into fifth place in the GNAC standings with a league record of 8-5. Alisha Breen led a trio of double figure scorers for the ‘Jackets with 16 points, and came up just short of a double-double with a team-high nine rebounds. Rylee Kane finished with 15 points for the visitors, and Lexi Prevost was one off her career high with 14 points on 4-for-7 accuracy from beyond the arc.
The Seawolves remained in the top spot in the conference standings with the win, moving to 20-2 overall and 13-1 in GNAC play. UAA received a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double from Shelby Cloninger, and Hannah Wandersee chipped in 14 points and eight boards.
Prevost drained her first three of the night on an assist from Breen, pushing MSUB ahead 9-8 midway through the opening quarter.
A five-second call resulted in a turnover by UAA with 3:25 to go in the first, and Kane converted her second bucket of the quarter to once again put the advantage in MSUB’s hands 17-16. The Seawolf defense came to life however, with two steals leading an 8-0 run over the next quick minute of play.
UAA had six steals in the opening 10 minutes, while the ‘Jackets had none and trailed 26-22 at the end of the period.
The second quarter delivered an offensive lull, as neither team scored until a Grace Weeks jumper nearly three minutes in. UAA maintained a modest advantage with a slow, 11-10 quarter, and the ‘Jackets headed to the locker room down 37-32.
Breen had five quick points to open the third quarter, including a trey from the wing that gave the ‘Jackets a 39-37 advantage. An ensuing corner trey by Prevost gave MSUB a three-point edge, and pushed UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy to burn a timeout.
A strong finish to the third by UAA however ultimately shifted momentum in the game, and dug the Yellowjackets into a tough hole to try to climb out of. With the score tied at 45-45, UAA embarked on a 14-2 burst to finish the third quarter with a 59-47 lead.
The ‘Jackets fought hard to work the deficit down to three points with 1:30 to go, but Kian McNair backed up a Cloninger layup with a bucket of her own to all but seal the win for UAA.
The Seawolves generated 20 MSUB turnovers thanks to 14 steals, while the ‘Jackets managed just one steal of their own in the game. UAA finished the game shooting 38.0 percent from the field (27-for-71), but made just 5 of 23 threes (21.7 percent).
By contrast, MSUB made 38.9 percent of its shots (21-for-54), and hit 7 of 22 treys (31.8 percent). Vanessa Stavish and Taylor Cunningham had five rebounds apiece while Kane matched McNair for the game high in assists with five. Ten of the 11 Seawolves who played Thursday night had at least one rebound, and UAA scored 21 second-chance points on 21 offensive boards on the night.
THE BUZZ: Prevost was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is 26-35 all-time against UAA and is 11-19 in games played in Anchorage…UAA has won nine in-a-row in the series…the one steal was MSUB’s lowest total of the season…Breen broke the MSUB career record for free-throw attempts, bringing her career total to 581 and surpassing Sherry McQuinn’s mark of 577…Breen also moved to No. 6 in MSUB history in career rebounding with 742.
NEXT UP: MSUB flies to Fairbanks Friday, for another GNAC matchup against the University of Alaska on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. Mountain time, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.