Anchorage — After testing their games against Division I teams in last weekend's Great Alaska Shootout, the Division II UAA men's and women's basketball teams begin Great Northwest Athletic Conference play this week.
The men start with the same two opponents they ended last season against, hosting Montana State Billings on Thursday and Seattle Pacific on Saturday. The UAA women kick things off at home Saturday against UAF.
Coming off two wins and a fourth-place finish in the Shootout to match their best finish in the 35-year-old tournament, the UAA men are 6-1 and ranked 25th nationally.
Shootout week was draining for the Seawolves, coach Rusty Osborne said, but he expects them to be fully recovered by Thursday. Overall, three tournament games in four days provided a healthy learning experience.
"I think it's a success in that we got better each day," Osborne said. "We made progress, but we're not anywhere where we need to be."
Montana State Billings (4-2) beat UAA in the GNAC tournament title game last season. UAA returned the favor the following week in the first round of the NCAA Division II West Regional championships, but ended its season with a loss to Seattle Pacific in the second round of the same tournament.
Seattle Pacific (5-1) has enjoyed double-digit margins of victory in all its wins this season. The home team has won the last 13 regular-season meetings between UAA and Seattle Pacific, with UAA taking seven straight in Anchorage.
"Seattle Pacific is probably the best team in our league, as of right now," Osborne said. "They're a hard match-up for us because they're so big and disciplined."
The UAA women are 3-2 after a runner-up finish at the Shootout that included a first-round victory over North Dakota State in which they tied a Shootout record with 14 3-pointers.
In addition to stellar shooting, the Seawolves have taken care of the basketball under first-year coach Ryan McCarthy. They've won the turnover battle in all five games, are committing almost nine fewer turnovers per game than opponents and are averaging four more steals.
"We know some of the things our team is doing well, so our team has an identity," McCarthy said. "I'm getting to know our players better, they're strengths and weaknesses and how they can contribute to this team."
The Seawolves have won their last 10 meetings with UAF (0-6), including two wins by more than 40 points last season.
"I think if we can play good defense, and control the tempo, I like our chances," McCarthy said.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.