UAA Athletics

UAA men’s basketball erases multiple double-digit deficits to beat Montana State Billings

The University of Alaska Anchorage men’s basketball team came into its regular-season finale matchup against the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s top seed, Montana State Billings, with playoff hopes up in the air, but knowing a win could keep its season alive.

After rallying from double-digit deficits in both halves, the Seawolves secured an 84-78 victory Saturday to earn a spot at this week’s GNAC championship tournament.

“It was just a reflection of what this team is,” UAA head coach Rusty Osborne said. “Unfortunately, but fortunately, we’ve been in that situation before and we knew we could do it.”

The game couldn’t have gotten off to a more inauspicious start for the Seawolves after they found themselves down 19-3 before they could hardly blink. UAA went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit down to single digits.

“We knew they were going to come out and throw a couple punches, and we had a couple of punches to throw as well,” UAA senior forward Jaron Williams said. “We knew that we were going to come back and make it a good game.”

The Seawolves completed their first rally of the night and briefly took a pair of leads courtesy of 3-pointers from senior guard Tyson Gilbert before ultimately entering the locker room with a 44-44 tie at halftime.

“The first thing we said in the locker room was that it’s 0-0 and we’re just going to go out, do what we do and go get buckets,” Williams said.


After the teams exchanged blows back and forth coming out of halftime, Montana State Billings regained the lead and was up by as many as 11 points, at 70-59 with 7:33 left on the clock.

Just when it seemed like it wasn’t going to be their night, the Seawolves got hot on offense and clamped back down on defense. They went on to close the game out on a 25-8 run to complete their second rally from a double-digit deficit and take the lead for good.

“We were able to just stay in the fight as coach (Osborne) always says and took it one possession at a time,” Gilbert said. “We were able to string along some plays at the end of the game right there and come out with the win.”

Junior point guard and reigning GNAC Offensive Player of the Week Dillon Barrientos led UAA with 19 points followed by Gilbert with 17. Williams and Sawyer Storms tied for third with 15 points and Dathan Satchell added 13 points.

“I thought we were a little sped up and wanted it too bad against Seattle Pacific (on Thursday),” Osborne said. “Tonight, even though we got behind, you could see that our shooters were a lot calmer.”

This win was especially meaningful for Williams, the only member of the graduating class who was born and raised in Anchorage. He had the largest contingent of supporters in attendance for senior night, including family as well as former coaches and even elementary school teachers.

“It was a great feeling to go out there and have a good game,” he said. “A lot of our seniors had good games. To get the (win) and see how much the city supports us, a lot of times people don’t know about Alaska (basketball), but the crowd we had today was amazing.”

Even though UAA is entering the GNAC tournament as the No. 6 seed, it poses arguably the biggest threat of the entire field when the team is firing on all cylinders.

“We’re ready to go win it and that’s our goal,” Osborne said. “We’ve beaten every team in the league except Seattle Pacific, and I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to see them or not, but it doesn’t matter. We know we can play with anybody when we’re on-point offensively.”

In the quarterfinals on Thursday, the Seawolves will face off with No. 3-seeded Saint Martin’s, a nationally ranked team that UAA swept in the regular season. The winner will advance to take on No. 2-ranked Northwest Nazarene on Friday.

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.