No.7 WWU edges No.1 Metro State

Austin Bragg goes up for a dunk against Metro State Photo: KPUG

No.7 WWU edges No.1 Metro State

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Center Austin Bragg (Sr.,Longview/Mark Morris) had game-highs of 20 points and five blocked shots and added a team-high 13 rebounds as Western Washington University defeated nationally top-ranked Metro State University in a battle between two NCAA Division II men’s basketball powers Saturday at Sam Carver Gymnasium on the WWU campus.

The Vikings, ranked No.7 in the latest National Association of Basketball Coaches/NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, improved to 4-0, extending their school and Great Northwest Athletic Conference record home winning streak to 31 games. WWU won the NCAA II national title in 2012 and reached the national semifinals last year.

MSU, which received 14 of the 16 first-place votes in the most recent coaches poll and reached the national championship game last year, fell to 3-1 despite 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds by forward Nicholas Kay.

The Vikings led by as much as 10 early in the second half but Metro State rallied, pulling to within three, 59-56, on two Kay free throws with 7:09 to play. The margin was still five inside the last 90 seconds, but a Jefferson 3-pointer from deep in the right corner closed the gap to two, 69-67, with 1:06 left.

The Roadrunners then forced a turnover and had a chance to tie, but turned the ball over themselves on the fast break with 47 seconds left.

WWU then ran the shot clock down and Bragg hit a driving layin with 11.8 seconds left. Jefferson answered with a 16-foot pull-up with 5.9 seconds to play, putting the margin back to two, 71-69.

Robert Harris, Jr. (Sr., Kent/Rainier Beach) provided the final margin with a free throw that rattled six times before falling in, but missed the second shot. Metro State pushed the ball up the right side, and Jefferson’s shot from 28 feet out banked off short at the buzzer.

Colby Mitchell (Jr., Chugiak, AK) came off the bench to contribute 13 points for WWU. Harris, Richard Woodworth(Sr., Bellevue/Newport) and Anye Turner (Jr., Tumwater/Black Hills) each had 11 points, with Turner also getting eight rebounds.

Harrison Goodrick came off the bench to contribute 15 points and seven rebounds on 7-of-8 field-goal shooting for Metro State, which had a 43-33 advantage in rebounding. Jefferson finished with 14 points and five assists.

It was the first meeting between the two schools.

The Vikings continue their season-opening stretch of eight home games on Thursday, Dec. 5 (7 p.m.), beginning Great Northwest Athletic Conference play against Western Oregon.