ANCHORAGE – Senior center Liam Gibcus had 15 points and 13 rebounds Thursday as 25th-ranked Alaska Anchorage used a huge rebounding edge to earn a 79-65 men’s basketball victory over Montana State Billings at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
The Seawolves (7-1, 1-0 GNAC) also got 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists from sophomore swingman Teancum Stafford to claim the Great Northwest Athletic Conference opener for both clubs.
The Yellowjackets (4-3, 0-1) got a game-high 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting from senior forward Jarrell Crayton, but the rest of his teammates combined to shoot just 14 of 38 (.368) in the rematch of last season’s GNAC Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament First Round games.
In the fifth meeting in 11 months between the longtime rivals, UAA used an early 12-0 run to take a 17-7 lead after five minutes and never trailed again. The Seawolves led by as many as 13 in the first half and 16 late in the game. MSUB cut it to a 48-44 margin with 16:57 to play, but Stafford nailed a three-pointer and Kyle Fossman sank a midrange jumper to fend off the charge.
UAA outrebounded the visitors 48-25, converting 25 offensive rebounds into 28 second-chance points. Freshman forward Collin Spickerman grabbed a career-high seven boards and senior forward Abebe Demissie added six to help propel the strong effort on the glass.
For Gibcus, it was his second career double-double and marked his highest rebound total in 91 career games. The Lysterfield, Australia, native shot 6 of 10 and added a block and no turnovers in 23 minutes.
Fossman scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2-4 3FG) and fellow junior guard Mike MacKelvie reached double figures with 10 points on 4-of-7 marksmanship.
UAA returns to action Saturday for another 2012 NCAA Tournament rematch, this time against 13th-ranked Seattle Pacific (6-1, 1-0), which knocked UAA out in the second round of the playoffs in March. That game tips at 7:30 p.m. AST at the WFSC.
NOTES: UAA’s 25 offensive rebounds were its most since grabbing 26 in an 88-83 win at Western Oregon, Feb. 19, 2011 … Gibcus’ previous rebounding high was 10, set against SPU in last year’s NCAA Tournament; that game also marked his first career double-double … Gibcus now stands alone in 10th place on UAA’s all-time victories list with 68 … with two three-pointers, Fossman tied current volunteer assistant coach Carl Arts (2004-08) for 19th place on the career 3FGs list with 101 … UAA now leads the all-time series 38-27 against MSUB, including 27-4 in Anchorage … UAA leads MSUB 9-2 in regular-season meetings since the Yellowjackets joined the league in 2007-08.