UAF demonstrates Top of the World domination

Posted: Monday, November 25, 2002

FAIRBANKS - Make your free throws. Nail your 3-pointers. Harass your opponent into 24 turnovers.

Alaska Fairbanks used that formula to upset Weber State 77-65 Sunday night and win the seventh Top of the World tournament.

Over four days, the Nanooks also defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay and Nebraska to become the first NCAA Division II school to win an eight-team tournament involving Division I teams.

Alaska Fairbanks coach Al Sokaitis credited his teams mental toughness and concentration.

"This team, three guys dive on the floor," Sokaitis said. "Two get hurt, then brush themselves off and get up."

Tournament Most Valuable Player Brad Oleson, a product of North Pole High School about 12 miles south of Fairbanks, scored 17 points, pulled down nine rebounds and had five assists.

"He does so many things off the ball," Sokaitis said. "He screens, talks, helps teammates get open. He attacks the game."

Oleson missed his only two 3-point attempts but the Nanooks shot 7-for-13 as a team. They also shot 26-for-31 from the free throw line.

Coming in, "We thought we might win one or two games," Oleson said. "We never thought we'd win the championship."

Oleson said the Nanooks got over their nerves in the opening game against Wisconsin-Green Bay and played loose in the championship. Practicing for a week at the Carlson Center, Fairbanks' largest convention hall, also helped, he said.

Knowing little about their opponents, other than what they observed at the tournament, the Nanooks decided they had to play hard every second, Oleson said.

The game started out ominous for the Nanooks as Weber State jumped to a 13-7 lead with a little more than five minutes gone. But with 3-pointers from a couple of freshmen, Zac Forsyth and Justin Bourne, Alaska Fairbanks tied it at 15.

The first half featured five ties and three lead changes. In the closing minute, Bourne sank two free throws and Steve Towne hit a pair of 3-pointers to give the Nanooks their biggest lead of the half, 42-34. The Nanooks were 5-for-7 from 3-point range in the period.

After Wildcat Jermaine Boyette opened the second half with a steal and a lay-in, the Nanooks went on a 13-3 run and opened a 55-41 lead with 13:12 to play.

The Wildcats went on a 9-2 run and closed to 57-50 with 10:10 left but would get no closer.

Alaska Fairbanks lost the rebound contest 38-33 but compensated with its long-range shooting. Weber State shot just 3-for-18 from beyond the arc.

Marquis Revels scored 12 points for Alaska Fairbanks, Jason Williams had 11 and Justin Bourne and Towne each scored 10.

Boyette scored 23 for the Weber State.

Sokaitis urged the Nanooks to make history in the final game.

"I told the kids, "Win last night and they'll remember for 20 years," he said. "Win tonight and they'll remember for 50 years."

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