After falling to in-state rival UAF for the first time in the last 28 games in a stunning 61-56 upset on Jan. 7, the University of Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team avenged the uncharacteristic road loss with a dominant show of force at home Saturday night.
The Seawolves were clicking on all cylinders on both ends of the court, resulting in a lopsided 69-39 victory over the Nanooks at the Alaska Airlines Center.
“We felt like we kind of put everything together defensively and offensively,” senior Jahnna Hajdukovich said. “This game was really about just working on our stuff, and it felt good to do that.”
The Nanooks tried deploying the same strategy they used to upset the Seawolves in their first matchup, but UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy said that his players “got a lot more comfortable executing against that zone defense,” and when they got good open looks, they capitalized on their scoring opportunities.
The Seawolves were able to nearly triple UAF’s point total by halftime with a 34-12 lead. That figure was the fewest points the Seawolves have allowed in a first half all season.
“If we guard like this for the rest of the year, we’re going to be putting ourselves in position to win, and that’s what we’ve talked about all week long,” McCarthy said.
The players especially take a lot of pride in their play on the defensive end, according to Hajdukovich.
“Defense was definitely a focus, that’s our pride and joy, and that’s what we focus on,” she said.
The Seawolves spread the wealth offensively as they got plenty of contributions from throughout the roster with 11 players recording a bucket and just two reaching double figures.
“We had some ladies step up, because they switched their defenses so different players were getting different looks,” McCarthy said. “They went from zone to man and when they went into man, we had some other ladies look to go attack … I thought we did a really good job of sharing the basketball today.
Hajdukovich led the team in scoring with 14 points and tied for the team lead in rebounds with six.
“I’m so proud of her, she’s been just a rock for us this year,” McCarthy said. “We just know what we’re going to get out of her every night. Some nights she gets hot, and she’s that spark for us offensively and defensively, she’s always solid. She’s always one of the leading rebounders.”
The Anchorage native scored all of her points in the first half and did most of her damage from behind the arc where she went 4-of-7 on 3-pointers.
“I think it was just people finding me against the zone,” Hajdukovich said. “We had practiced getting into space, and once I found that space, I felt real comfortable and my teammates found me, and it was great from there.”
UAA has gone 2-1 in its last three games with a 10-point loss to nationally ranked Western Washington wedged between a pair of victories. Hajdukovich said the team feels like it is collectively beginning to play its best basketball of the season.
“I think the confidence is very high, and I think the trust with each other is great,” Hajdukovich said. “We know it’s a battle and anything worth anything is hard to get to so we expect the best out of each other every day, and we’re going to continue working for that.”
McCarthy believes they executed their game plan for “at least over half of the game” against UAF and hopes the team can build off the win heading into its next road trip where it will play both Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington this upcoming Thursday and Saturday.
“In March, you can go undefeated,” McCarthy said. “I’ve coached a team that went undefeated, we hit March and we made an earlier exit than what we thought (we should have). As a program, you’re judged on what you do in March, so we’re trying to peak at the right time.”