The first look at the new-look UAA men's basketball team was at times cringe-worthy Friday. The Seawolves missed shots by the boatload and seldom looked organized with the ball in their hands in a 66-56 season-opening victory over Colorado Christian.
They looked pretty good when the other guys had the ball, though, seldom allowing their opponent an easy shot or clear path to the basket and forcing enough turnovers early in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit and take control of the game.
"Good defensively, terrible offensively. Simple as that," summed up coach Rusty Osborne, who has a significantly different lineup than last season.
Only four players are back from last season's 23-7 team. Among the departed is center Taylor Rohde, a senior whose dominance in the paint made him the NCAA Division II national player of the year.
"I'm glad we got the win, but there's a lot of work to do," said junior Kyle Fossman, one of just two players who has been with the team for three or more seasons. "It's definitely a new team. We've some new guys that are skilled athletes; we've just gotta learn to play together."
UAA endured two long periods without a field goal -- a seven-minute span in the middle of the first half and the final 6:53 of the second half. The Seawolves survived the second drought by prospering at the foul line, scoring their last 20 points on free throws. In the final two minutes, they sank 13 of 14, with Fossman hitting 7 of 8.
Fossman logged 39 minutes -- more than anyone else -- and finished with a game-high 20 points.
He hit a couple of clutch shots, including a jumper after rebounding his own missed 3-pointer that put UAA on top 31-30 almost five minutes into the second half. That was the first time UAA had led since the 10-minute mark of the first half, which ended with Colorado Christian ahead by four points.
Colorado Christian led once more, 34-33 on Wayne McCullough's layup, and then UAA buried the Cougars with three unanswered 3-pointers, two by Jalen Little and one by Fossman. A Fossman free throw made it 43-34 and the visitors from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Colorado Christian got 12 points from Michael Stamer, 11 rebounds and four assists from Kyle Weaver and 10 points from Michael Brown.
Little, a 5-10 guard, was one of three true freshmen to play for UAA. He finished with 12 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes; John Erickson, a 6-4 guard, directed the offense for many of his 15 minutes; and Collin Spickerman, a 6-9 forward, finished with three rebounds in five minutes.
Osborne was particularly pleased with Erickson, who showed more offensive poise than most of the other Seawolves, regardless of experience.
"The key to the game was when John Erickson went in," Osborne said. "You look at the stat sheet and he didn't have any points and only one assist, but he went in and just played. He didn't try to make plays. He moved the ball, he passed the ball, he facilitated our offense.
"Before that, we had five guys trying to make plays."
Sometimes, they made plays. Sophomore newcomer Teancum Stafford showed signs of offensive might when he gave the Seawolves a boost with back-to-back flashy buckets early in the first half, one of them a long 3-pointer and the other a dunk.
Stafford finished with 10 points and Abebe Demissie, one of four returners, hit a couple of key 3-pointers on his way to 11 points.
"We've got a long way to go," Osborne said. "It's a new group, but you can see little bits of talent there."
The victory came on the first day of the AT&T Jamboree, a four-team, round-robin tournament that continues Saturday at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. In Friday's earlier game, the Nanooks of UAF pulled out an 80-76 overtime win over Colorado State-Pueblo.
The Alaska teams trade opponents Saturday, with UAF playing Colorado Christian at 3 p.m. and UAA facing Pueblo at 5. The basketball games are part of a tripleheader that concludes with UAA's final home volleyball match of the season at 8 p.m.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
COLORADO CHRISTIAN (56) -- Stamer 4-10 4-7 12, Crist 3-4 2-2 8, Weaver 2-8 3-3 8, Brown 4-13 2-6 10, McBeth 2-6 4-4 8, Redmond 0-5 1-2 1, Dennis 0-3 1-2 1, McCullough 2-5 0-0 5, Trinkle 0-2 1-2 1, Sleeman 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 18-59 16-22 56.
UAA (66) -- Leckband 1-3 0-0 3, Gibcus 1-4 2-4 4, Lauwers 0-2 0-0 0, Stafford 3-11 3-3 10, Fossman 4-8 10-12 20, Heard 2-2 2-3 6, MacKelvie 0-4 0-0 0, John Erickson 0-0 0-2 0, Little 3-9 4-4 12, Demissie 3-6 3-4 11, Spickerman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-50 24-32 66.
Colorado Christian 26 30 -- 56
UAA 22 44 -- 66
3-point goals -- Colorado Christian 4-20 (Stamer 0-1, Weaver 1-6, Brown 2-6, McBeth 0-2, Redmond 0-2, Dennis 0-1, McCullough 1-2), UAA 8-24 (Leckband 1-3, Lauwers 0-1, Stafford 1-5, Fossman 2-6, Little 2-3, Demissie 2-5, Spickerman 0-1). Rebounds -- CC 38 (Weaver 11), UAA 36 (Gibcus 6, Little 6). Total fouls -- CC 25, UAA 21. Fouled out -- Stamer, Crist. Assists -- CC 11 (Weaver 4), UAA 14 (5 with 2). Turnovers -- CC 14 (Redmond 3), UAA 12 (Fossman 3). Blocked shots -- CC 3, UAA 4 (Gibcus 2). Steals -- CC 4, UAA 8 (MacKelvie 3). Referees -- Lujan, Tovolo, Gillen. A -- 474.
By BETH BRAGG