FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team opens the 2011-12 season on Wednesday with an exhibition game against Western New Mexico. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. at the Rolle Activity Center and admission is free.
"It is always fun and you have the first game jitters," said junior guard Stallon Saldivar. "Hopefully we see a lot of production out of the new guys. We want to win and play well and see how we do against another team."
The Mustangs are coming off a 14-16 season, including a 14-8 league mark and playoff appearance in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. They are coached by Mark Coleman, who has taken the men's basketball team to two RMAC playoffs (2008 and 2011). Their roster includes nine players who played high school basketball in the state of Arizona.
It is the second consecutive season the Lumberjacks have faced Western New Mexico. The Lumberjacks posted a 96-86 exhibition victory last season. Gabe Rogers and former standout Cameron Jones each had 21 points in the contest. Senior Durrell Norman had 14 points in his debut in a Lumberjack uniform.
Western New Mexico hung in the game with 13 three-pointers. Guard T.J. Riley, who returns this season, had a game-high 26 points.
NAU led 53-41 at the half after building an early 17-point lead in the contest. The Lumberjacks led by as many as 19 in the second half before the Broncos cut the lead to eight points with 2:18 left in the game but they never got any closer.
The Lumberjacks have been practicing since Oct. 14. Head Coach Mike Adras welcomes seven returnees and eight newcomers to formulate the 2011-12 roster. Junior Gabe Rogers, the leading returning scorer, is expected to be out at least eight weeks after suffering a preseason injury. The Lumberjacks also return starting point guard Stallon Saldivar, who averaged 5.4 assists per game last season, and forward Durrell Norman, who averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
"It has gotten a lot better," said Saldivar of the Lumberjack preseason. "We started off slow with a lot of new guys new to the system. They are starting to get the hang of it and we are meshing really well. We are playing a lot harder. I am really excited about it."
NAU starts the regular season at the 2011 Hilltop Challenge hosted by the University of San Francisco Nov. 12-14.
Live statistics will available for the contest.