This was for all the University of Alaska Fairbanks teams that came to Anchorage and went home empty-handed. For all the heartbreak of the past.
``I'm a basketball historian,'' Nanooks senior guard Matt Carle said. ``I know. I was in grade school since they won. It feels good.''
The UAF men's basketball team defeated the University of Alaska Anchorage 78-68 in a Pac West Conference game Thursday night before 1,235 fans at the Sports Center. It was the first time the Nanooks won here since 1984 and only the second UAF win in the last 24 games between the two rivals.
Carle, a Juneau-Douglas High School graduate whose roots are in Hydaburg, had 10 points and certainly appreciated the moment.
``We did this for everybody,'' said Carle, speaking of past UAF teams.
Although the law of averages certainly was on UAF's side, that didn't mean the Seawolves were philosophical about the result.
``It wasn't supposed to happen on my shift,'' said UAA senior center Serge Using, who probably played the greatest game of his career.
The 7-foot-1 Using scored a career high 18 points and grabbed a career high 18 rebounds while blocking four shots, but at times it seemed as if he was doing it all on his own.
After a sluggish first half that nonetheless produced a 34-30 lead, the Seawolves (13-8, 2-5 Pac West), were absolutely frigid at the start of the second half. In the first 8 minutes of the second period, UAF burst out to a 51-38 lead. UAA scored just four points and precisely one field goal during the stretch and could never recover.
``I thought they deserved everything they got,'' UAA coach Charlie Bruns said. ``They outplayed us, and they outshot us. We got looks.''
Few people shot the lights out, but UAF (10-12 and 4-3) riding a four-game winning streak headed into Saturday's rematch in Fairbanks, hit 48.4 percent from the floor in the second half.
The Nanooks, who had only seven turnovers, got a big night from 6-7 forward Bogdan Popescu of Romania. Popescu finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds, though he didn't seem to be having a flashy game.
``He just kind of gets it done,'' Bruns said.
However, when UAA came on late and slashed the margin to as little as 68-64, the Nanooks got critical, run-stopping buckets from forward Sanjey Noriega (18 points) and guard Devin Dawkins (15).
``I thought we played stale early and got in a rhythm later,'' said UAF coach Al Sokaitis, whose squad's record is deceptive because the Nanooks are 0-7 against NCAA Division I schools. ``We distributed it well. They played within themselves.''
UAA's leading scorer was forward Greg Freeman, but Freeman, who had 19 points, also fouled out. That included the rarity of picking up a personal foul while sitting on the sidelines. Rather than call a bench technical, officials attributed the technical individually to Freeman.
Jon Madison, 12 points, and Taylor Wagner, 11, also scored in double figures, but UAA shot 36.4 percent from the floor and made only 5 of 30 from the three-point line. Season-leading scorer Chris Hamey, another Juneau-Douglas High graduate, had a miserable night, scoring two points on 1 for 11 shooting.
Using tried to put the Seawolves on his shoulders and carry them.
``He's a problem,'' Sokaitis said. ``He's a problem defensively, and he's a problem offensively.''
Using's biggest problem, though, was feeling the pain of the defeat.
``It's a tough loss,'' he said. ``It's a tough loss at home.''
Juneau Empire ©2014. All Rights Reserved.