LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team battled back from a 12-point halftime deficit to take a brief second half lead, but were ultimately plagued by turnovers and second chance points as they were edged 50-48 by Jacksonville State on Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Lumberjacks fell to 1-3 on the season and will take on Campbell on Saturday for their final game of the Global Sports Classic.
"A lot of what we do is take care of the basketball and make sound crisp decisions and passes," said head coach Jack Murphy. "In the first half we didn't do that, and in the second half we did. We would also play great defense for the first 25 seconds in the shot clock and they'd get an offensive rebound and kill us. Offensive rebounds and turnovers were the difference in the game and we just cannot let that happen."
Both teams got off to a slow start as the Gamecocks held the lead throughout the majority of the first half. After the Lumberjacks took a 6-4 lead six minutes into the game, Jacksonville State responded with a 12-2 over the next four minutes to take control of the half at 16-8. NAU would keep their deficit in single-digits the rest of the way into halftime until Jacksonville State converted on their final two possessions to push their lead to 31-19 at the break.
A quick burst to open the second half by the Lumberjacks forced an early JSU timeout as NAU slowly chopped away at its deficit. Down 41-35 after a pair of free throws by the Gamecocks Darion Rackley, the Lumberjacks utilized a 9-0 run spurred by five three throws by senior Gabe Rogers and capped by senior Stallon Saldivar's lone basket of the game to take a 44-41 lead with 6:57 left in the game.
Jacksonville State would snag the lead right back two minutes later, but a pair of free throws by freshman DeWayne Russell inched the Lumberjacks back within one with eight seconds remaining, 49-48. After JSU's Tarvin Gaines made just one-of-two from the line on the ensuing possession, the Lumberjacks pushed the ball down the court for final possession. However, Rogers' pass to a wide-open Gaellan Bewernick under the basket was deflected as time expired, sealing up the 50-48 victory for the Gamecocks.
Rogers posted a game-high 22 points for his second consecutive 20-point game in the loss. He shot 6-of-15 from the field and converted all eight of his free throw attempts. Russell added 10 points and senior Ephraim Ekanem chipped in eight points.
The Lumberjacks outshot the Gamecocks 46 percent to 33 percent, but committed 20 turnovers that turned into 26 points for Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks also posted 17 offensive rebounds that led to 12 second chance points, while the Lumberjacks had just two points on second chance opportunities while being outrebounded overall by a 31-28 margin.
"Our guys did a good job of running our offense in the second half and not letting Jacksonville State take us out of what we do," Murphy said. "The next thing for us to put together two halves like the second half back-to-back and play a complete 40 minute game. All credit goes to Jacksonville State, but we can't take 20 minutes to get into the flow of the game."
The Lumberjacks return to the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday to take on Campbell, who fell to North Carolina A&T, 85-60, on Friday. The Camels are 2-4 on the season. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. to wrap up the Global Sports Classic for both teams.