BOZEMAN, Mont. – Montana State built a first-half lead to cruise to an 86-78 victory over Northern Arizona, giving the Lumberjacks a 0-2 record on the Montana road trip and to the start of Big Sky Conference play. NAU is 8-6 overall, while Montana State improved to 8-6, 2-0 in Big Sky play.
"I am not pleased with the way our offensive unit performed on defense," said Head Coach Mike Adras on the Lumberjack Radio Network. "I am not happy coming on this trip and dropping two games. It stings and we are going to have to get better playing at home the next two weeks."
The Lumberjacks trimmed a 21-point deficit in the second half with a late push for the second consecutive game, cutting the advantage to 10 points with 1:43 left in the game. But NAU did not get the lead into single digits until the final seconds. NAU cleared its bench in the second half, getting a burst of energy in the comeback effort.
"We did not play well tonight," said Adras. "We need to do more and have guys produce."
Montana State shot 53 percent from the field and made 11 three-pointers. The Bobcats also scored 19 points at the free throw line despite shooting just 54 percent from the line. MSU out-shot the Lumberjacks 34-15 at the free throw line. NAU shot 62 percent from the field in the second half and 54 for the game, posting a 37-28 advantage on the boards.
"We did not come up here with the right mindset," said Adras.
"Shane played very well and scored five buckets on offensive rebounds," said Aras.
Senior Cameron Jones had just eight points in contest, snapping a streak of 30 consecutive games with 10 or more points. He finished 4-of-18 from the field with six rebounds.
Sophomore Mike Dunn came off the bench in the second half, giving the Lumberjacks a spark with a career-best nine points. He had scored just two points in six games this season entering the game. Sophomore Gabe Rogers added 12 points.
Eric Rush led the Bobcats with 22 points, while Bobby Howard had 21 points. The tandem contributed half of the offense for MSU, while providing a key defensive effort by Rush on Jones.
NAU fell behind early and trailed by nine points before going on a run to tie the game at 18. The Bobcats responded with a 9-0 run and finished the half outscoring the Lumberjacks 26-7 to take a 19-point lead into the locker room.
Howard led the Bobcats with 14 first-half points, shooting 6-of-7 from the field with two three-pointers. MSU shot 53 percent for the half and hit eight three-pointers.
Johannsen had a solid half for the Lumberjacks with eight points and five rebounds. Jones had four points and six boards. NAU shot 44 percent, breaking a streak of five consecutive halves shooting 50 percent or better from the field.
NAU returns home for the first of three Big Sky Conference games over the next two weeks. The Lumberjacks host Idaho State on Jan. 6 and Weber State on Jan. 8 at the Rolle Activity Center next weekend. Both games can be heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and seen Universityhouse (Dish Network 9411) and Fox College Sports. Saturday's game against the Wildcats will also be shown live on Fox Sports Arizona.