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November 11, 2011

Men’s Basketball Opens Hilltop Challenge against Louisiana

NAU Game Notes at Hilltop Challenge (PDF)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team will open the 2011-12 season with a three-game weekend tournament hosted by the University of San Francisco. The Lumberjacks open the Hilltop Challenge with the University of Louisiana (formerly Louisiana-Lafayette) Friday night at 9:30 p.m. Mountain time before facing host San Francisco Saturday and North Dakota State on Sunday.

"We are very excited," said senior forward Durrell Norman. "We have been going at it for about a month now and we are ready to hit other people. It will be a good gauge to see how we have come along since the scrimmages and exhibition."

Two of the three games from the Hilltop Challenge will be available on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and online on their website and via the mobile application. They will air the Friday season opener against the University of Louisiana and the Sunday game against North Dakota State at 2 p.m. The Saturday night game against San Francisco at 7 p.m. will be available only online on Stretch Internet.

"We have been preparing to play three days in a row," said Norman. "We have been going over the tendencies of the other teams and are prepared to go against all three of the opponents."

NAU was picked sixth by the coaches and fourth by the media in the 2011-12 Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls. The Lumberjacks are 15-7 in season openers under Mike Adras and have never won a season opener on the road or neutral site. Overall, the Lumberjacks have lost 10 straight season openers on the road dating back to a win at Brooklyn College in 1986-87.

"Three games in two and half days is probably a little too much but we are going to find out really quickly how we are going to do in game situations," said Head Coach Mike Adras.

The Cajuns finished 14-15 a year ago, but ended the season on an 11-game winning streak before falling to Western Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt basketball tournament.

The Cajuns return three starters from that squad, including junior point guard Raymone Andrews, the only player on the squad not recruited by Marlin.  Also returning from last year's starting lineup are sophomore J. J. Thomas, who was named the team MVP a year ago, and senior Josh Brown.

"Louisiana has a couple of key players that are back for them," said Adras. "I would envision they would stay with what they have done in the past."

With junior Gabe Rogers out, the Lumberjacks return just 9.9 points from the 2010-11 roster. Adras is expected to start with Norman, forward Max Jacobsen and guards Stallon Saldivar and Michael Dunn. Adras has seven newcomers on the roster that could see their first action this weekend.

NAU will be meeting University of Louisiana (formerly Louisiana Lafayette) for the first time in school history. The Lumberjacks have played San Francisco four times, splitting the meetings. The most recent meeting wasn an 84-62 victory by NAU in Flagstaff in 2006-07. The Lumberjacks lost the first game of the series that season in San Francisco 82-73. NAU is 0-2 all-time against North Dakota State, losing 89-82 at home during the 2008-09 season.

2011 HILLTOP CHALLENGE
11       FRI.     NORTH DAKOTA STATE             7:00 P.M.
11       Fri.      Northern Arizona vs. Louisiana 9:30 P.M.
12       SAT.   NORTHERN ARIZONA                  7:00 P.M.
12       Sat.     Louisiana vs. NDSU                9:30 P.M.
13       Sun.    NDSU vs. NAU                       2:00 P.M.
13       SUN.   LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE            4:30 P.M.