UAF men beat UAA at buzzer

Doyle Woody

UAA’s men’s basketball team had lorded over rival UAF for so long — 16 straight victories in eight years — it seemed fitting the Nanooks’ slump-buster came in a Senior Night thriller decided as the final second melted off the clock Thursday night in Fairbanks.

Buzzer-beater for the Nanooks.

Buzz-kill for the Seawolves.

Andrew Kelly hit a lay-up as time expired inside the Patty Center to cap UAF’s furious comeback and grab a 70-68 Great Northwest Athletic Conference victory before 956 delirious fans.

After UAA’s Christian Leckband seized an offensive rebound of Kyle Fossman’s missed 3-pointer and fed guard Travis Thompson for a game-tying 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds remaining, the Seawolves called their last timeout. The Nanooks followed with a timeout.

The Nanooks inbounded the ball and guard Ronnie Baker drove the left side of the lane. Defended strongly and seemingly headed out of bounds in mid-air, Baker twisted and fed Kelly, who banked home the winner as time expired.

Baker told the video broadcast team in Fairbanks that he figured Kelly was somewhere behind him and in position to prosper.

“He’s always around the basket,’’ Baker said. “He’s always cutting. He’s a slasher.’’

The victory in the last regular-season game for both teams clinched UAF (17-9, 12-6) the third seed for next week’s GNAC Tournament in Lacy, Wash., where it will play sixth-seeded Montana State-Billings on Wednesday.

UAA (17-12, 10-8 GNAC) is the fourth seed and will open the tournament against Western Oregon on Wednesday.

UAA, which had its four-game winning streak snapped, swept Western Oregon in the regular-season series.

The Seawolves are accustomed to sweeping the Nanooks too, but they could not hold a 12-point lead in the first half and surrendered the 13-point lead they owned with 7:47 to go.

“It was a tough way to lose, but we never should have been in that position,’’ UAA coach Rusty Osborne said in an email. “We controlled the game for the first 15 minutes of each half, but played poorly in the last five minutes of each half.’’

Until that last nearly eight minutes, UAA had shot 56.4 percent from the field. After that, though, the Seawolves made one of nine shots — Thompson’s 3-pointer — and committed two turnovers while being outscored 20-5. UAA’s other two points in that stretch came on Thompson’s free throws.

Kelly made three baskets in that span, Baker made a basket and two free throws, Joe Slocum made six of eight free throws and Mike Stepovich hit a bucket and a 3-pointer. UAF made five of nine shots down the stretch.

Though UAA shot well from distance – the Seawolves made 11 of 21 3-pointers – it is a team of guards and got outrebounded, 38-25. UAF owned a 14-3 cushion on the offensive glass and got yeoman’s work from Kelly, who counted 10 offensive rebounds among his game-high 18 boards. Kelly also blocked three shots.

Thompson and Kyle Fossman led UAA with 15 points each, Colton Lauwers added 14, and Brian McGill and Teancum Stafford each chipped in 10. Stafford fouled out with 2:40 remaining.

Osborne said the Seawolves needed to be more relentless on the boards and Stafford’s foul trouble means the team needs more from its bench.

Baker fueled UAF with a game-high 18 points, Slocum furnished 15 and Kelly added 14, including the final slump-busting two.

For the Seawolves, they next face a Western Oregon team they beat Saturday in the final game at UAA’s Wells Fargo Sports Center — the school’s basketball teams next season begin play at the new Alaska Airlines Center.

“This has been a resilient group that has battled all year and I expect we will bounce back once again,’’ Osborne said.

Seawolves notes

Thompson, Fossman and Stafford all earned GNAC All-Academic honors.

Fossman earned his third such honor -- the senior owns a 3.63 grade-point average in accounting. Stafford, a junior, owns a 4.0 in psychology. And Thompson, a junior who studies civil engineering and made the team for a second time, holds a 3.44.

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UAA (68) -- McGill 3-8 4-5 10, Thompson 5-11 2-3 15, Lauwers 5-8 0-0 14, Stafford 3-5 3-3 10, Fossman 6-12 0-0 15, Leckband 0-2 2-2 2, Blossom 0-0 0-0 0, Mears 1-2 0-0 2, McTier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 11-13 68.

UAF (70) -- Tica 2-6 0-0 5, Kelly 7-15 0-0 14, Pucar 2-5 1-2 7, Baker 6-15 4-6 18, Slocum 4-8 5-6 15, Reese 2-5 0-0 4, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Bills 0-0 0-0 0, Pierson 0-0 0-0 0, Stepovich 3-5 0-1 7. Totals 26-59 10-15 70.

UAA 31 37 -- 68

UAF 29 41 -- 70

3-point goals -- UAA 11-21 (Thompson 3-6, Lauwers 4-6, Stafford 1-1, Fossman 3-7, Leckband 0-1), UAF 8-23 (Tica 1-4, Pucar 2-3, Baker 2-6, Slocum 2-5, Reese 0-2, Stepovich 1-3). Rebounds -- UAA 25 (Stafford 4, Fossman 4), UAF 38 (Kelly 18). Total fouls -- UAA 17, UAF 11. Fouled out -- Stafford. Assists -- UAA 9 (McGill 4), UAF 9 (3 with 3). Turnovers -- UAA 10 (Thompson 3), UAF 9 (3 with 2). Blocks -- UAA 4 (Stafford 2, Mears 2), UAF 3 (Kelly 3). Steals -- UAA 4 (McGill 2), UAF 4. A -- 956. Officials -- Wescott, Bray, Hamilton.