Photo by Denis Concordel, www.widgic.com
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team fell behind early and never fully recovered as Santa Clara posted a 68-63 victory in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament Tuesday night.
"We looked out of sync in the first half," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "The week off certainly did not help us and the fact that we had very little time to prepare for this ball game."
The Lumberjacks shot just 29 percent in the first half and had 11 turnovers while giving up several offensive rebounds. The Broncos capitalized on the turnovers, scoring 11 points off the miscues.
Overall, the Lumberjacks fell behind by 16 points in the first half and trailed by 15 at the half.
But NAU was not ready to hang up the jerseys for the season, coming out of the locker room with a 15-5 run to cut the deficit to 41-36 six minutes into the half. Senior Cameron Jones spurred the run with nine points during the stretch.
"The guys responded so hard and played hard in the second half," said Adras. "They really did a nice job like they have all season long of battling and giving themselves a chance to win the ball game. It is the team that I know and I am very proud to have coached."
But the Broncos rallied back ahead with five straight points and Jones was saddled with his third and fourth fouls within a minute and a half, sending the all-time leading scorer to the bench at the 12:02 mark.
"It hurt us a great deal," said Adras. "He sat on the bench for an extended period but he sparked us when the second half started and other guys took over and made plays for us."
Santa Clara built the lead back to 10 points at 60-50 when Jones came back in with 5:32 left. NAU eventually cut the deficit to three at 64-61 but Santa Clara converted four consecutive free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
Jones finished with a team-high 18 points, while Gabe Rogersadded 15. Senior Eric Platthad 13 points off the bench.
NAU shot 50 percent in the second half but finished at 40 percent for the game.
The Lumberjacks finished the season 19-13 on the season. The CIT appearance was the sixth postseason tournament berth in school history. NAU has never won a postseason game after the Big Sky Tournament.