ANCHORAGE – Junior center Hannah Wandersee scored a career-high 27 points and senior forward Shelby Cloninger had 18 points and eight rebounds Thursday to help the nationally 2nd-ranked Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team to a 78-68 win over Northwest Nazarene on Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The Seawolves also got six assists and a career-high 13 points from sophomore point guard Yazmeen Goo as they improved to 8-0 overall and survived as one of two Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams – along with Montana State Billings – to escape the first week of league play unscathed at 2-0.
The Nighthawks (5-2, 1-1) were led by 17 points and four assists from reserve guard Marina Valles, plus 12 points and eight rebounds from forward Coco Gall, but the visitors from Nampa, Idaho, were outshot .433 to .386 and outrebounded 40-35.
“NNU has a lot of experience on its roster and is definitely one of the more talented teams in our league, so it’s a relief to get through that game with a victory,” said UAA head coach Ryan McCarthy, who improved to 8-4 against his alma mater and the school where he worked as an assistant and interim head coach from 2007-12. “We didn’t play our best basketball tonight, and that’s to be expected when you play a quality opponent like that. But we did the things that were necessary and executed our offense well in the clutch.”
The Seawolves trailed 17-14 in the waning seconds of the first quarter before Kaitlyn Hurley grabbed a deflected pass and nailed a three-pointer. Sydni Stallworth started the second quarter with two free throws and Cloninger fed Wandersee for a layup to spark a 13-2 run over a 3-minute span, which ultimately proved the difference.
UAA saw its 40-31 halftime lead sliced to 52-46 on a steal and layup by Valles with 2:39 left in the third quarter, but Wandersee answered with a layup 14 seconds later, and the lead grew to 63-49 on Hurley’s corner trey with 33 seconds left in the third.
The Seawolves’ lead swayed between eight and 14 points throughout the fourth quarter as Cloninger – who came one point shy of her own career high – nailed a dagger three-pointer to make it 74-62 with 2:55 left.
Tara Thompson chipped in five points, six rebounds, three steals and no turnovers, while fellow junior guard Kian McNair had career bests of six rebounds and six assists. Second-leading scorer Rodericka Ware was held out of the scoring column but contributed nonetheless with four assists and two key steals that both led to baskets.
UAA outscored NNU 44-26 in the paint behind Wandersee’s 12-of-17 shooting, and the Seawolves led 29-15 in points off turnovers.
The Seawolves continue league play next week with a 7:30 p.m. tilt on Saturday, Dec. 9 at Alaska Fairbanks.
NOTES: Goo shot 3 of 5 from the field and 7 of 7 from the free-throw line as she tied or set her career scoring high for the fourth time in the last seven games … Wandersee’s 27 points surpassed her career high of 24 from the Nov. 10 win over Hawaii Pacific, while her 12 field goals were four more than any Seawolf had registered thus far in 2017-18 … UAA earned its 22nd straight GNAC regular-season victory and 37th straight regular-season win over a fellow NCAA Div. II opponent.