Northwest Nazarene vs Western Oregon Basketball

Northwest Nazarene guard Marina Valles (4) goes up for a shot attempt near the basket against Western Oregon on Jan. 31, 2019.

Following historic years for both the Northwest Nazarene men’s and women’s basketball teams, both teams are starting the 2019-20 season a bit under the radar.

Starting today, both teams have a chance to show that they are better than their preseason rankings indicate.

The Northwest Nazarene women’s team opens its season with a 1 p.m. MST game against Hawaii Pacific at the GNAC-CCAA Crossover in Ellensburg, Washington, while the men play an exhibition game at 7 p.m. against California Miramar in the Northwest Nazarene homecoming game at Johnson Sports Center.

Both Nighthawk teams went on postseason runs last season, but both were ranked to finish lower in the preseason GNAC polls than they finished in 2018-19.

The Nighthawk women, who went 29-3 last season, won their first-ever GNAC Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA West Region Semifinals, were picked fourth in the preseason GNAC poll. NNU is replacing three starters from last year’s team, but does return its leading scorer, Avery Albrecht.

Albrecht, a senior this season, averaged 13.9 points per game last season, earning first team All-GNAC honors and second team All-West Region honors. Senior Marina Valles, a second team All-GNAC selection last year, also returns.

The Nighthawk women beat defending NAIA Division I national champion Montana Western on the road in an exhibition last weekend before falling to NCAA Division I Montana State in a exhibition on Monday.

NNU’s men’s team, which is coming off its first 20-win season in the NCAA Division II era, was picked to finish seventh in the preseason polls. The Nighthawks have to replace four of their top five scorers, including Adonis Arms, last year’s GNAC Player of the Year. He transferred to NCAA Division I Winthrop.

NNU has six players from last year returning, including senior Jayden Bezzant who averaged 13.1 points per game in a sixth-man role last season. Starters Olamilekan Adetunji, Adalberto Diaz and Sam Roth all return for the Nighthawks as well.

The Nighthawks’ men’s team played Wyoming tough in an exhibition game last week, falling 62-56 in Laramie, Wyoming. The Nighthawks open the regular season Tuesday, hosting the College of Idaho in the first of two Mayors’ Cup meetings.

Both the men and women are home next weekend, as Northwest Nazarene hosts the Fairfield Inn Tournament.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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