Anchorage — When it comes to heated college basketball rivalries, the one between the UAA and UAF men has lacked sizzle.
UAA won the last 14 meetings, including nine straight home games against the Nanooks, but both streaks could be in danger of ending when UAF takes on the Seawolves in Anchorage on Saturday at 7 p.m. Both teams have played well of late and are tied for third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Every game against UAF is important to the Seawolves, no matter the circumstance, UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. This time, it just so happens that both teams are fighting for playoff position with two weeks left in the regular season.
"Our goals will always be greater than winning one game against any single opponent," Osborne said. "If we win this game but do not follow up with good performances, then it means nothing."
UAF last beat UAA in 2006 with a 76-73 win in Fairbanks. More frequent wins for the Nanooks would be good for Alaska's basketball culture, UAF's second-year coach Mick Durham said, giving high school players across the state two good programs to potentially to play for.
"We're just trying to make it a rivalry," Durham said. "I think we need to win a game to really do that."
UAA and UAF each possess 8-5 GNAC records, with UAA at 15-6 overall and UAF at 13-8. UAA won the last three meetings by six points or less, the most recent a 65-60 come-from-behind win in Fairbanks last month.
"Our team is looking forward to performing better than we did in Fairbanks, where we played poorly," Osborne said. "We played without Teancum Stafford and we uncharacteristically turned the ball over."
The Seawolves finished with 20 turnovers in that game and missed five straight free throws in the final two minutes, Osborne said. In addition to the 6-foot-5 Stafford being out with a back injury, UAA was also without injured 6-7 forward Chris Weitzel. Both players regained their health and have been significant factors in UAA winning seven of its last nine games.
UAF is coming off a pair of road wins last week, but Durham said the Seawolves are always tough to beat in Anchorage. He expects fans to pack the house the way they did in Fairbanks, where the Nanooks missed a great opportunity after forging a 32-25 halftime lead.
"We were very disappointed in the loss," Durham said. "We came in probably playing better than they had, now I think it's reversed."
UAF will look for continued strong play from center Sergej Pucar, who was named the GNAC co-player of the week after combining for 36 points in last week's two road victories. The 6-11 junior scored a season-high 21 points in a 68-67 overtime win at Saint Martin's.
"He really just had a great finish to the week in overtime," Durham said. "When he is focused and on his game, he can be very tough offensively."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.