Photo by Mackenzie Kasper
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team will face the nation's leading scorer Thursday night in Weber State standout guard Damian Lillard when the Wildcats visit the Rolle Activity Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
Junior guard Michael Dunn will be tasked with guarding Lillard in the Lumberjacks' defensive scheme. He collaborated with his teammates to hold Lillard to 18 points in the first meeting, one of just six teams to hold him to under 20 points this season. The Lumberjacks held him to nine points in the first half and allowed just one basket over the first 16 minutes of the second half. Lillard then scored seven points in the final 4:21 when the game was in hand for the Wildcats.
"He is the leading scorer in the NCAA and an overall great player on a great team," said Dunn on the Lumberjacks Weekly podcast this week. "I took the challenge last time and we did a pretty good job on him. He had 18 points which is still a lot, just not by his standards. He is coming off a huge week with 40 points and 35 points (in two games last week). He is going to be looking to do that again in Flagstaff. I am going to take it personally to take the challenge and hold him under his average and give my team the best chance to win."
Lillard, the nation's leading scorer, had an incredible week for the Wildcats, in leading Weber State to two victories. He scored 40 points in Thursday's win over Portland State and followed that up with 35 points in Saturday's victory over Northern Colorado.
For his performance he was honored as the Big Sky Player of the Week for the fifth time this season. In the two games he averaged 37.5 points, five assists, two rebounds and one steal per game. He shot 69.7 percent from the field, 64.7 percent from 3-point range, and 70 percent from the free-throw line. Lillard continues to lead the nation in scoring, which he has since late November, now at 25.5 points per game.
He is a finalist for three National Player of the Year awards, including the John Wooden Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.
Weber State leads the Big Sky Conference at 10-1, clinching a spot in the 2012 Big Sky Tournament, with an 18-4 overall record. The lone league loss came at Idaho State. The Wildcats defeated NAU 81-67 in the first meeting in Ogden on Jan. 19.
"We played Weber State decent up there," said Interim Head Coach Dave Brown. "We made a great effort and we are looking forward to playing them and the challenge. I think these young men are going to respond in great fashion."
Weber State leads the all-time series 68-26 and has a 25-19 advantage in Flagstaff. The Wildcats have won seven straight in the series with the last Lumberjack victory a 75-70 win in the Big Sky Tournament in 2007-08. NAU swept the Wildcats that season in three games, including a 69-56 victory in Ogden. The Lumberjacks have lost the last three meetings in Flagstaff between the schools.
The Lumberjacks (5-19, -11 Big Sky ) have dropped their last 11 conference games and have not won since Dec. 29 against Sacramento State. Junior forward Ephraim Ekanem had his best Big Sky weekend to date with back-to-back games in double figures, scoring a combined 29 points last weekend. He has averaged 9.5 ppg. 5.8 rpg. over last eight games. He averaged just 4.0 points and 3.4 over the first 16 games.
The game can be heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker in Flagstaff, Prescott and Sedona and online via The Big Talker website and their free Big Talker mobile app for Androids, Blackberries, iPhones and iPads. It will also be available online via Big Sky TV and NAU TV.
It is also being televised by NAU TV locally in Flagstaff. Fox College Sports Pacific will join the game in progress starting at 7 p.m. The game will feature the inaugural Faculty-Staff Appreciation Night. All faculty-staff members can enjoy a two-for-one ticket. Tickets can be ordered the day of the game or at the box office at night with valid ID.