Midway through the first half of a then-close game with the UAF men's basketball team on Saturday, UAA forward Christian Leckband unleashed a thundering one-handed dunk and snarled as he ran back down the floor, pumping his arms up and down to the fans at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
The high-flying play only put UAA up by five points, but it was all Seawolves after that. A 96-76 win over their in-state rival was the final result in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
"We joke around that (Leckband) is very dramatic and to see him get really excited, I was happy for him, because he hasn't really played as well as we know he can,'' said UAA guard Travis Thompson, who scored 20 points. "Just to see him come out here and play very well and come out here and give us that spark, it was nice for him and for our team," .
About a minute before the dunk, the 6-foot-7 Leckband drilled a 3-pointer that put the Seawolves up 24-23. A pair of Kyle Fossman free throws made it 26-23, and after UAF missed a jumper on its next possession, the stage was set for Leckband's highlight-reel drive from the right wing.
"I just went out there, trying to be aggressive, saw an opening and I took it," said Leckband, who came off the bench to score nine points. "It's a big game, not just because we were playing UAF, but because it's our first conference game of the year. It's good to come out here and get a W."
UAA (6-4 overall, 1-0 GNAC) beat UAF for the 16th straight time and owns a 73-21 all-time record against the Nanooks (4-4, 0-1 GNAC).
Leckband wasn't the only one providing highlights for the Seawolves. Point guard Brian McGill slashed and dashed his way to a career-high 29 points, hitting 8 of 13 field goal attempts and 11 of 12 free throws. His quickness with the dribble made him nearly impossible to guard, and when he wasn't converting layups, he was getting fouled.
"You've got to get the ball in the paint," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. "He and Travis (Thompson) have been really good about getting into the paint and breaking down the defense and opening things up for our 3-point shooters."
UAA came in averaging a GNAC-best 11.4 3-pointers per game and sank 13 of 32 Saturday. Some of them came from so far out they should have been worth four points.
One such bomb came from Thompson with around eight minutes to go in the first half. He launched the shot from near the NCAA logo on the right wing, which is about four feet behind the arc and a couple feet from the scorer's table. The ball swished through to give UAA a 32-23 lead.
UAA still led by nine at halftime and opened the second half on a 17-5 run that put the Seawolves up 62-41 with just less than 14 minutes to play. Fossman buried three treys on his way to 15 points and junior forward Teancum Stafford collected a game-high 12 rebounds.
The hustle award went to senior guard Colton Lauwers, who repeatedly dove to the floor on his way to nine points and three steals off the bench. Defensively, the 6-3 Lauwers was all over the floor, guarding everyone from the Nanooks' 6-11 center to smaller, quicker guards.
"His versatility is very beneficial to us," Osborne said. "Anything we do this year, he's gonna be a big part of it."
Five UAF players scored in double-digits, led by Ronnie Baker's 21 points. Andrew Kelly tossed in 12 to go with a team-high 11 rebounds, Joe Slocum added 11 and Sergej Pucar and Rashaad Allen each had 10.
UAF, which will host the Seawolves in both teams' final regular-season GNAC game, tried to take away UAA's perimeter shooting early, a strategy that left the Seawolves with plenty of room to drive to the rim.
"You kind of have to pick your poison with our team," McGill said. "You either have to defend the shooters, or leave the shooters open."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
UAF (76) -- Tica 3-9 0-0 8, Kelly 5-10 2-3 12, Pucar 4-8 0-0 10, Baker 8-17 3-4 21, Slocum 4-7 0-1 11, Reese 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 4-9 0-0 10, Bills 1-1 2-2 4, Stepovich 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 29-62 7-11 76.
UAA (96) -- Mears 1-1 1-2 3, McGill 8-13 11-12 29, Thompson 7-13 2-2 20, Stafford 4-9 0-0 12, Fossman 4-8 4-4 15, Leckband 5-10 0-1 12, Lauwers 2-5 3-4 9, Blossom 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-60 21-25 96.
UAF 36 40 -- 76
UAA 45 51 -- 96
3-point goals -- UAF 11-30 (Tica 2-8, Pucar 2-4, Baker 2-5, Slocum 3-6, Reese 0-1, Allen 2-6), UAA 13-32 (McGill 2-3, Thompson 4-9, Stafford 0-4, Fossman 3-6, Leckband 2-5, Lauwers 2-4, Blossom 0-1). Rebounds -- UAF 32 (Kelly 11), UAA 37 (Stafford 12). Total fouls -- UAF 20, UAA 16. Fouled out -- none. Assists -- UAF 21 (Slocum 8), UAA 20 (McGill 10). Turnovers -- UAF 12 (Slocum 4), UAA 10 (McGill 3, Stafford 3). Blocks -- UAF 3 (Pucar 2), UAA 2 (Stafford 2). Steals -- UAF 3, UAA 9 (Thompson 3, Lauwers 3). Officials -- Paz, Starkovich, Shamion. A -- 1,000.
By JEREMY PETERS