The UAA men’s basketball team put on a 3-point shooting clinic Friday night in its 88-78 win over the Coast Guard Academy at the Alaska Airlines Center.
Senior forward Niko Bevens broke a 17-year-old school record for the 3-point shooting accuracy by draining 8 of 9 long-range shots, and as a team the Seawolves shot 60 percent by draining 18 of their 31 shots from beyond the ace.
The display came in front of both a big crowd and a national television audience, but when it was over UAA coach Rusty Osborne expressed another reason why the game was special.
It was part of ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic, an annual Veteran’s Day weekend event played primarily at military bases since 2012. The crowd was filled with troops from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, which served as the host for the event, and the team facing the Seawolves consisted of players who will serve in the Coast Guard some day.
“It’s just an unbelievable experience for us to be able to entertain and give back to the men and women in this country who protect us every day,” said Osborne, who whose father and father-in-law both served in the Air Force and flew in the Vietnam War.
Bevens said his grandfather, Jim Bevens, is a Marine Corps veteran who was most likely watching the game on ESPNU in Oregon – although he might not have seen all of his grandson’s baskets. Oregon State, his grandfather’s favorite team, also had a game Friday.
“I believe he was (watching) but he was also probably watching the Beaver game,” Bevens said.
By sinking 88.9 percent of his 3-pointers, Bevens bested the previous school record for single-game 3-point accuracy set in 2002 by Adam Fitt-Chappell, who drilled 7 of 8 -- 87.5 percent -- in a game against Northwest Nazarene.
Bevens finished with a game-high 24 points, including 15 in the first half alone, all from 3-point range.
“Niko is a big-time shooter and he showed that tonight,” Osborne said. “When he lets the game come to him and doesn’t try to force things, he shoots it unbelievably, and he had one of those nights and hopefully we’re going to get a lot more of those.”
Bevens continued to pour it on in the second half with three more triples that came when the Coast Guard Academy started to rally, cutting UAA’s lead to single digits.
“The ball just kept coming to me, and I let the game come to me instead of forcing shots,” Bevens said.
Coast Guard coach Kevin Jaskiewicz was impressed.
“We knew coming in that Niko was a really good shooter and he proved that tonight,” Jaskiewicz said. “I said to him after the game ‘You couldn’t miss one? Give us a chance.’ ”
The Bears were smaller yet they were able to dominate in the paint, where they outscored the Seawolves 40-14 and outrebounded them 40-37. Noah Baldez led a balance scoring attack by the Bears with 14 points and Justin Kane led the rebounding effort with nine.
A half-dozen Seawolves drilled 3-pointers, which Osborne said pointer will be a big part of the team’s game this season.
“If we can sign up for 18-of-31, I’ll take it right now,” he said.
Four Seawolves scored in double figures, including sophomore Tobin Karlberg, who was 4 of 5 from 3-point range for 15 points while handing out five assists. DeAndre Osiugew added 13 points, five rebounds and three assists, and Tyrus Hosley chipped in 12 points and five assists.
“The team played really well,” Bevens said. “They just found the open gaps within their defense. We had a good game plan so we just stuck to it.”
The game was the first of three straight the Seawolves (2-0 overall) will play this weekend. They face Hawaii Pacific at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Chaminade at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Both teams relished in the opportunity to showcase their teams on national TV.
“It was a big platform that we displayed our talents on,” Bevens said. “I thought it was just a really fun experience overall. I was truly honored to just be able to play and have this opportunity to play in front of a crowd in the stands as well as on national television.”
The Bears will go home with an 0-1 record but plenty of good memories, including time spent on base with JBER troops.
“What an experience to come out here in this beautiful arena with great fan support,” Jaskiewicz said. “An absolute memory that we won’t forget, I won’t forget. This whole experience has been phenomenal.”