Two losses for Nanooks leave men cold

UAF's Cole Daniel gets surrounded by Central Washinton's Chris Sprinkler and Humberto Perez. Photo by Nina Schwinghammer/The Sun Star

By Reba Lean
Sun Star Reporter

The men’s basketball team played numbers two and three in their conference this week when Central Washington and Western Washington came to town. A win against these teams would have moved the Nanooks up a place in the standings and built an immeasurable amount of confidence. However, Thursday’s and Saturday’s games did not finish well for the Nooks. Thursday’s match was a slow, crushing defeat from CWU, and Saturday’s was a heart-wrenching loss late in the game from the WWU Vikings.

On Thursday, the Nanooks couldn’t seem to find the basket. Out-rebounding their opponents by nearly ten in both halves, the score should have been different. Coach Clemon Johnson called from the bench for his team to hustle faster on the offense and get the ball moving. Sometimes, they were able to, and sometimes they weren’t. Junior Boe Edwards beat the first half buzzer and brought the score to 27-39. With a new half, there was hope for the team.

Johnson went through his entire bench looking for a change. He called timeouts to let his team know that change was possible, but the players just could not catch up. The Wildcats took the game 89-77.

The coach was disheartened. “We play a step below our competitors and I don’t know why that is,” he said. If the team had played like they did Thursday against UAA last week, they could have won, he said. Johnson said he’s proud of how the team is performing in practice, and he thinks they just need to bring practice to the game.

“We’re tired of losing – that’s it. It’s simple,” junior Nashorn Maynard said. Maynard once again showed his team the meaning of endurance with his career-high 29 points. The coach said that all his team needs is one more win, and the spark of confidence will appear again.

The confidence was there Saturday against the number two Vikings. Coming from a loss against Anchorage, their team was a little shaken. Sophomore Deante Jones was back to being the tall man on the team, and a new starting lineup that included junior Clayton Edwin highlighted the night.

Early on, it was a Maynard and senior Emmanuel Jenkins show. The fast paced offense from both sides promised a good fight. Defense was right on target as well. Edwards pulled off miraculous steals and rebounds as usual.

It’s unclear what the turnaround point was with so many lead switches throughout the game, but it wasn’t until second half that the Vikings pulled ahead and stayed there. The game got scrappier, and when turnovers occurred, they were stolen back again. When the Nooks got rebounds, they couldn’t exploit them. With about six minutes left in the game, the Vikings charged ahead and never looked back. They won 82-71.

“Their shooters got loose in the second half,” Johnson said. “We go cold, and the other team goes hot,” the coach said. “I thought we had this one.”

Maynard surpassed his career-high that he had established just two nights before, making 30 points. He said he felt that they had played as a team, and played hard, but he obviously didn’t feel much like talking after the distressing loss.

The men’s team heads to Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon this week – both teams just above them in the rankings. They return to Alaska to face the UAA rivals one last time Feb. 24.

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