Falcons show dominance in 104-75 victory

As the month of February reaches its end, so does the NCAA Division II men’s basketball regular season. Seattle Pacific played its final two games last week before the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.

The Falcons closed out the season on the road with mixed results, adding a win and a loss to their final record. The team traveled to Bellingham on Thursday for a showdown with No. 14-ranked and conference-leading Western Washington.

Despite battling throughout the entire game, the No. 24-ranked Falcons had their fate sealed by excessive turnovers, losing 72-70.

“We need to do a better job taking care of the ball,” head coach Ryan Looney said. “We shot a high percentage, but they got to shoot it more.”

It was a must-win game for the Falcons if they were going to have any shot at clinching a first-round bye in this week’s GNAC tournament. The loss guaranteed that Western Washington and Alaska Anchorage would finish as the top two teams in the conference and, as a result, automatically advance to the second round of the tournament.

“In the GNAC, it’s about finishing in the top three in conference,” Looney said. “Past history has indicated that is a predictor of [the] opportunity to play in the national tournament.”

Western Washington gained momentum early on to establish a 38-30 halftime lead. SPU was on fire offensively in the second half, shooting 63 percent from the field, keeping it close.

The team proved to have issues with ball control though, as 17 turnovers were capped off by sophomore point guard David Downs fumbling the ball away with two seconds left on the clock.

Downs led all players with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Other double-digit scorers for the team were junior wing Jobi Wall and junior post Andy Poling with 16 and 11 points, respectively.

As usual, the team outpaced their opponents on the boards, powered by senior post Modou Niang’s 10 rebounds to establish a 40-30 advantage.

Having already locked down their third-place GNAC finish, the Falcons made their way across the border on Saturday to take on Simon Fraser. The Falcons put on a dominant performance, closing out the regular season with a 104-75 trouncing.

Looney said he was impressed with the team’s ability to defend and rebound throughout the season.

Poling paced SPU with 27 points in the team’s highest scoring effort since March 4, 2010, in which the Falcons put up 105 on the scoreboard but still fell in overtime at Alaska Fairbanks.

SPU had five double-digit scorers in total, with Poling, Wall, redshirt freshman post Cory Hutsen, senior post Jake Anderson and junior wing Scott Morse.

As the regular season ends and the postseason begins, some of the upperclassmen emerged as team leaders while newcomers give the Falcons plenty of reason to be optimistic.

“Jobi Wall and Jake Anderson have developed leadership traits all year,” Looney said. “Riley Stockton and Cory Hutsen have gained valuable experience as freshmen. I expect them to play well down the stretch.”

The GNAC tournament begins today at Saint Martin’s with the Falcons paired up against the sixth seed, Central Washington.

SPU swept the season series against the Wildcats, beating them 76-49 on their home court in January and 72-64 in Seattle earlier this month. A victory would put the Falcons in the semifinals against Alaska Anchorage.

Looney said the team’s key for the tournament is “becoming more cohesive on offense.”

The six-team tournament consists of three rounds; the final game will be televised live on Root Sports on Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

The winner of the tournament automatically earns a bid in the 64-team NCAA Division II tournament. Once each of the 23 conference champions has been accounted for, 41 at-large bids will be handed out to teams deemed worthy.

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Title: Falcons show dominance in 104-75 victory | Author: Jon Heddles | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2012-02-29 | Internal ID: 8073