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Men’s Basketball Drops Close Semifinal to UNC 73-70

GREELEY, Colo. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball season came to end Tuesday night with a 73-70 loss at top-seeded Northern Colorado in the semifinals of the Banner Health Big Sky Tournament.

"I don't think anybody dreams of ending their season in the semifinals," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "It is a tough way to end the season. I thought it was a very hard-fought game. It is what we expected and I do not think the intensity disappointed anybody."

Senior Cameron Jones scored a team-high 24 points and Gabe Rogers added 19 points. Sophomore Austin Smith added eight points off the bench.

"I am very proud of our seniors for the contribution they have made to our university and our community over the last four years," said Adras.

Big Sky Most Valuable Player Devon Beitzel led the Bears with a game-high 25 points.

The Lumberjacks fell behind by 12 points in the first half when Beitzel hit back-to-back three-pointers to take a 24-12 advantage with 9:42 left. The Bears still led by 10 with 4:13 left when the Lumberjacks went on an 18-6 run to end the half to lead by a bucket at the intermission.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half and the Lumberjacks hit seven three-pointers with Rogers scoring 14 of his 19 over the first 20 minutes.

NAU extended the lead to seven points out of the locker room with jumpers by Jones and a three-pointer by Rogers to force a timeout by the UNC bench. The Bears responded with a 17-2 run to take over the lead by eight.

"I thought we came out great in the second half," said Adras. "The problem was we did not shoot the ball as well as we did in the first half. We built that lead but there was a lot of time left. We knew it would continue to be a battle."

NAU shot just 32 percent (10-of-31) in the second half but held the Bears to 27 percent (8-of-29). The Bears out-scored the Lumberjacks by 18 at the line and held a 42-26 advantage on the board.

The Lumberjacks fought until the final buzzer. Trailing by nine with 4:36 left, senior DeAngelo Jones hit back-to-back jumpers in the lane and the forced a steal in the UNC backcourt but was then called for a disputed offensive charge. NAU forced a turnover and Cameron Jones cut the lead to three with a jumper with 3:05 left.

Beitzel pushed the lead back to five with a layup with 2:43 left. After Cameron Jones hit two free throws with 1:36 left, NAU forced a turnover by Chris Kaba, setting up a chance to tie but Eric Platt's three-pointer from the top of the key was rebounded by Kaba. Beitzel missed two jumpers in the final minute, giving the Lumberjacks a final chance at the tie and an opportunity to force overtime. Jones three-pointer from the corner was off with three seconds left.

The Lumberjacks finished 19-12 on the season and could still have an opportunity for postseason action in one of the three tournaments.

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