In a game defined by blood and guts, the UAA men's basketball team captured fourth place at the Great Alaska Shootout by beating Loyola Marymount 83-77 Saturday at Sullivan Arena.
The Seawolves (6-1) went to war in the paint and to town on the perimeter to match their best finish in tournament history. It was the seventh time in 35 Shootouts that Division II UAA has grabbed two wins in three games against Division I competition.
Blood spilled and tempers flared throughout the game, which was marred by 47 fouls -- 28 of them against the Seawolves, who lost 6-foot-10 center Liam Gibcus and 6-7 reserve forward Stephan Heard to fouls and had two others playing with four fouls.
"We've been talking about toughness all week, and I thought we really displayed that tonight, and that was the key," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. "We perservered, we made big shots, and we made big stops when we needed them. But the biggest thing is we were tough. If we're not tough, we're not gonna win."
Every rebound was a potential skirmish, and things grew so heated early in the second half that Loyola's Ashley Hamilton came running from the other side of the court to challenge Gibcus after Loyola point guard Anthony Ireland went to the court hard after Gibcus fouled him.
When the dust cleared, Gibcus was whistled for a personal foul and a technical foul, Hamilton was hit with a technical foul, and Ireland was bleeding from the mouth and chin.
Ireland bled so much that UAA's Colton Lauwers, who along with Jalen Little was responsible for guarding him, had blood smeared on his arm. Ireland eventually had to change jerseys on the sideline because NCAA rules prohibit players from wearing bloody uniforms.
The Seawolves never lost their cool and never backed down against the more experienced Lions of the West Coast Conference, who return three starters from a 21-13 team.
"That was a lot different than anything I've ever been a part of," said UAA sophomore Teancum Stafford, who played at the junior college level last season.
Abebe Demissie, who came off the bench to contribute 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, said the Lions are physically the strongest team the Seawolves have met.
"We knew they were gonna come out and try to punch us in the mouth,'' he said.
Asked at a postgame press conference how the Seawolves avoided letting their emotions get out of control, Osborne answered without hesitation.
"Because they know if they do, there will be a price to pay," he said.
"We're well-coached," Demissie said with the hint of a smile. "Well-scared," corrrected Osborne.
"That too," added Demissie.
Statistically speaking, Loyola (3-3) lost the game at the foul line, and UAA won it behind the 3-point arc.
Loyola hit 22 of 38 free throws, and UAA hit 15 of 27 from long range, meaning the Lions just barely shot a better percentage from the foul line (57.9 percent) than UAA did from behind the 3-point line (55.6 percent).
One of the hottest hands belonged to Stafford, who piled up 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
"Hey, that's pretty good," Stafford said after hearing his shooting stats. "I don't know what to say about that. Just a good night."
Lauwers added 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting, taking all of his shots behind the arc, and Demissie and Kyle Fossman each scored 12.
Lauwers and Little shared the difficult task of guarding Ireland, a 5-10 senior who is quick, fearless and skilled. Ireland frequently imposed his will, driving and spinning through traffic, not shying away from contact and burying some big shots en route to a game-high 26 points.
"I thought our point guards were just unbelievable tonight," Osborne said of Lauwers and Little. "They went against probably the best point guard in the tournament. That kid is unbelievable. We wouldn't have won if our point guards hadn't played well."
UAA led practically wire to wire. Loyola led 1-0 on a Hamilton free throw at the start of the game, but freshman Christian Leckband drilled a 3-pointer to trigger a 12-0 UAA run that included consecutive 3-pointers by Lauwers and another by Demissie.
But the lead was never a comfortable. It was a one-possession game for several minutes in the second half, and even when the Seawolves led 70-62 with 4:56 left, their advantage seemed tenuous. By then, Heard had already fouled out and three others (Gibcus, Demissie and Collin Spickerman) had four.
"We talked about perseverance, about overcoming, and we told 'em to be tough," Osborne said. "I told them if they'd just be tough, I wouldn't care if every single one of them fouled out."
Late in the game, with the outcome still in doubt, UAA played with three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on the court. While Loyola got 139 minutes (out of a total 200) from seniors and juniors, 50 from sophomores and 11 from freshmen, UAA got 106 from seniors and juniors, 26 from its only sophomore (Stafford) and 68 from freshmen Little (nine assists, six points), Leckband (eight points, four rebounds), Spickerman (four blocked shots, four points) and John Erickson, who played eight minutes despite a heavily bandaged shooting hand.
The final minute lasted an eternity and was jam-packed with drama, including seven fouls. Loyola cut it to 76-72 on back-to-back putbacks by Ayodeji Egbeyemi with 36.2 seconds left, but the Seawolves got some breathing room with two free throws by Lauwers, a blocked shot by Spickerman and a free throw by Fossman to go up 79-72.
A 3-pointer by Loyola freshman Nick Stover made it 79-75 with 12.7 seconds left, but the Lions had just one possession after that.
Reach Beth Bragg at email@example.com or 257-4335.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (77) -- Blackwell 3-8 1-2 7; Ireland 9-21 5-8 26; Hamilton 4-7 7-11 16; Stover 3-8 4-4 11; Osborne 1-1 1-2 3; Okonji 2-4 2-6 6; Flint 1-3 0-0 2; Egbeyemi 2-10 2-5 6; Mornar 0-0 0-0 0; Totals -- 25-62 22-38 77.
UAA (83) -- Leckband 3-4 0-0 8; Lauwers 4-8 2-2 14; Stafford 8-13 0-1 19; Gibcus 4-6 0-0 8; Fossman 2-3 6-8 12; Heard 0-0 0-0 0; Erickson 0-1 0-3 0; Little 2-4 1-2 6; Demissie 3-8 3-4 12; Spickerman 2-2 0-0 4; Totals -- 28-49 12-20 83.
Loyola Marymount 29 48 -- 77
UAA 35 48 -- 83
3-point goals -- LMU 5-13 (Blackwell 0-1; Ireland 3-4; Hamilton 1-1; Stover 1-2; Egbeyemi 0-5); UAA 15-27 (Leckband 2-2; Lauwers 4-8; Stafford 3-5; Fossman 2-3; Little 1-2; Demissie 3-7). Rebounds -- LMU 39 (Egbeyemi 12); UAA 28 (Stafford 6). Totals fouls -- LMU 19; UAA 28. Fouled out -- LMU Ireland; UAA Gibcus, Heard. Assists -- LMU 10 (Flint 6); UAA 24 (Little 9). Turnovers -- LMU 7 (three players with 2); UAA 12 (Leckband 3). Blocks -- LMU 0; UAA 7 (Spickerman 4). Steals -- LMU 5 (Flint, Ireland 2); UAA 4 (Four players with 1). Officials -- Haddad, Shamion, Lujan. A -- 4,389 (announced).