In their first game since becoming the nation's top-ranked Division II women's basketball team, the Seawolves did plenty to show their worthiness of that status Thursday night at the Alaska Airlines Center.
So complete was UAA's 82-47 win over Seattle Pacific that even when things didn't go their way, the Seawolves looked pretty good.
Like when they forced a fourth straight turnover during a 16-0 run at the end of the third quarter. Senior forward Megan Mullings disrupted Seattle Pacific's in-bounds pass and junior guard Kiki Roberton came up with the ball, raced downcourt and made a nifty behind-the-back pass to Jessica Madison -- who missed the layup, prompting a groan from the crowd of 1,156 eager to see the sweet play result in points.
Not to worry. Junior forward Alysha Devine grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Mullings, who passed to senior guard Christina Davis, who drained a 3-pointer while standing in front of the UAA bench.
Minutes later Madison more than redeemed herself when she drove the lane for a layup as the shot clock was nearing zero, a bucket that came with 15 seconds left in the quarter. That was plenty of time for the Seawolves to force one more turnover, but not enough time to get off a good shot -- or so it seemed. Madison fired a shot nearly from halfcourt, drawing iron before the ball bounced off the backboard, this time prompting a gasp from the crowd stunned to see the shot come so close.
Suffice it to say the gasps far outnumbered the groans in this one.
"We did a really good job defensively, and we executed our game plan," UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said. "I was real pleased with our energy."
In winning their ninth straight game, UAA (21-1 overall, 8-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) made 15 steals while forcing most of SPU's 26 turnovers, shot 48.6 percent from the field, got 32 points from its bench and dictated the pace after an agonizingly slow start for both teams.
"Anchorage is a really good team," Seattle Pacific coach Julie Heisey said. "They've got a lot of depth, they know how to win games and they keep the pressure on."
The Seawolves kept the pressure on by getting double-figure minutes out of 11 of 12 players and nine minutes out of the 12th. They did it by substituting in bunches, bringing in four or five players at a time every few minutes.
Twice they went on monster runs.
Up 17-10 after one quarter, the Seawolves opened the second quarter with a 14-2 run, with SPU's two points coming at the free-throw line. The Falcons (6-10, 3-6) didn't score a field goal for more than six minutes.
That helped UAA build a 43-27 halftime lead. The gap doubled thanks to the 16-0 run at the end of the third quarter, which ended with UAA up 68-37.
Mullings finished with a game-high 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting, a game-high nine rebounds, three steals, three assists, two blocks and one turnover in 18 minutes of action.
Devine added 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including one basket that came after she stole the ball and got slapped in the face as she came downcourt. Her eyes were red and swollen, but she finished the play with a layup.
Keiahnna Engel supplied 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting and added two steals and three assists. She had some brilliant moments -- a first-quarter, full-body stretch that allowed her to catch a long pass from Jenna Buchanan for a basket that made it 13-5; a second-quarter, driving bucket one second before the halftime buzzer; a third-quarter steal off the dribble that led to a coast-to-coast layup.
Seattle Pacific was led by Courtney Hollander's 12 points and seven rebounds. The Falcons were without leading scorer Jordan McPhee, a guard who sprained an ankle on the final play of their previous game, a loss to Western Washington.
McPhee is day-to-day, said Heisey, who lost two other guards to ACL injuries before the Christmas break. All three players were team and statistical leaders, Heisey said.
"Our best defender, our best rebounder, our best scorer," she said.
UAA survived a sluggish start that saw the teams play to a 4-4 tie in the first five minutes. There was no flow and lots of empty possessions before the Seawolves grabbed an 11-4 lead with a 7-0 run capped by Buchanan's only 3-pointer of the game, allowing the senior from Galena to extend her streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to 26.
The Falcons cut UAA's lead to three points, 13-10, but Mullings and Devine combined for four points in the final 38 seconds of the quarter to send their team into the second quarter with momentum.
"We know someone's gonna come in and pick it up for us," Devine said. "The biggest thing is trying to get that momentum going, and most of the time we can."