Anchorage — More than two weeks without competition has the UAA women's basketball team looking forward to defending home court this week against a pair of nationally-ranked Great Northwest Athletic Conference foes.
Western Washington (No. 20) visits Thursday, followed by Simon Fraser (No. 9) on Saturday. Simon Fraser leads the GNAC at 9-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. Western Washington (8-3, 2-0 GNAC) sits in third place.
The fifth-place Seawolves (7-2, 1-0), who are riding a four-game winning streak, haven't played since winning three home games in three days to claim the AT&T Hoops Classic crown Dec. 19. After nursing some injuries and logging plenty of practice hours since, the Seawolves are revved up for this week's test.
"More than who we're playing, it's just great to get back out on the floor against an opponent with a different colored jersey," UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said.
Western Washington and Simon Fraser are similar teams, McCarthy said. Both are well coached and disciplined, and both are loaded with experienced, talented and tall players.
Led by 15.4 points per game from senior center Britt Harris, Western Washington boasts three players with double-digit scoring averages. Senior guards Trishi Williams and Corrin Waltrip average 11.2 and 10.3 ppg, respectively. The Vikings also have five players listed at 6-feet or taller, while UAA has two.
"Just their size, in general, will be a challenge," McCarthy said. "It'll all come down to whoever dictates the tempo of the game."
As usual, UAA will promote a fast pace that puts a premium on ball control. A fast pace increases the number of possessions, creating more opportunities for the Seawolves to create turnovers and transition scoring.
One of Saturday's top challenges will be slowing down Simon Fraser's Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, a 6-2 senior that McCarthy called one of the best in the GNAC. She averages 16.3 points and 12.2 rebounds.
"She's just a really, really good athlete," McCarthy said.
UAA seniors Alysa Horn and Sasha King are both averaging 16.4 points, with King tossing in more than eight assists and Horn generating more than eight rebounds per game.
UAA junior Mariesha Harris is expected to miss this week's games due to injury. Junior Kylie Burns, who averages more than 10 points and seven rebounds, will return to action after missing UAA's last three games due to injury.
The Seawolves are carrying confidence from the Classic. They closed the round-robin tournament with a 66-56 win over Cal State-Los Angeles, a California Collegiate Athletic Association team that McCarthy thinks is similar to some of the top GNAC teams. Holding the Golden Eagles to 56 points was a solid achievement, McCarthy said.
"It was a win that had some validity," he said.
Continued strong play this week will no doubt add to UAA's confidence, and the Seawolves have nothing but victory in mind.
"One of the things I think is really special about this group, is the whole group expects to win," McCarthy said. "There's really no plan B. It's plan A: win."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.