Photo by Jamie Hines
TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona got a scare in McKale Center Thursday night before holding on to a 63-58 win over Northern Arizona. The Wildcats overcame an eight-point second half deficit to win for the 27th consecutive time over the Lumberjacks in the closest game in the series since 1978.
NAU dealt with several changes in travel plans during the day after having its flight from Flagstaff canceled earlier in the day. The Lumberjacks bused to Phoenix and flew to Tucson, spending time in four different airports during the day.
"All the travel is irrelevant and let's just play," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "I thought we imposed our will upon them. I am proud of our guys for executing the game plan. I thought we did what we need to do to be successful."
NAU led 31-24 at the half and kept the lead for the first 11 minutes of the second half. Stallon Saldivar put NAU up 45-40 at the 9:13 mark before the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run sparked by three consecutive three-pointers, including two by Brendan Lavender.
The Lumberjacks battled back to take a one-point lead twice in the final three minutes and the game was tied at 58 with 1:16 left. Trailing by three, NAU had a chance to tie the game but turned the ball over on an in-bounds pass and Lavender dunked it at the other end to seal the game.
Jones led the surprising first half for the Lumberjacks, scoring 21 of his game-high 27 points. The Wildcats were held to 26 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 21-11 by the Lumberjacks with four NAU players were four or more.
The Wildcats started 2-of-13 from the floor as the Lumberjacks took the early lead, building the advantage to 12 points. Arizona responded with an 11-2 run but NAU took a 31-24 lead into the locker room.
Jones was 8-of-9 and 4-for-4 from the line in the first 20 minutes.
NAU returns to Flagstaff to host Air Force next Wednesday in the final non-conference game of the year. The game is Veteran and Military Appreciation Night with current military receiving up to five (5) $5.00 general admission tickets.