FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. –The Northern Arizona men's basketball program made a memorable return to the Walkup Skydome last Saturday with a 77-60 win over Sam Houston State. The Lumberjacks look to extend their positive play Wednesday when they host Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference. Tipoff is 6:35 p.m.
"I think this is one of the better teams we have played up to this point," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. "Fortunately, we have them at home. They are very talented and they present problems because their point guard play is so excellent."
LMU's junior Anthony Ireland has exploded for the Lions to start the young season, and enters the week third in the WCC in scoring at 20.3 ppg. He had three 20-plus point games at the Great Alaska Shootout, giving him 18 in his career.
"I want to see continual improvement and good team defense and whether we can lock in and slow down a premier player like Anthony Ireland," said Murphy. "It is going to be similar to a tough Big Sky Conference game."
The Lions are 4-4 on the young season after defeating Portland State on Dec. 1. In the two-game homestand, senior Ashley Hamilton averaged 18 points and nine rebounds to pace the Lions. He leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game and is ranked fifth in the WCC entering the week. He also ranks 11th in the league in scoring at 14.6 points per game.
The Lumberjacks drew the largest home opening crowd to the Walkup Skydome in more than 15 years and hope to continue the excitement about the program.
"We want to continue to play good team basketball and keep our assist total up," said Murphy.
NAU has recorded 19 assists in each of their three wins on the season.
"Playing team basketball has been very good to us," said Murphy. 'We are not a selfish team by any means. We have to move the ball from side-to-side. When we penetrate and kick, we are at our best."
Freshman DeWayne Russell and senior Gabe Rogers combined for 41 points against the Bearkats. Russell is tied for eighth in the country in scoring among freshmen at 16.3 points per game. He is second overall in the Big Sky Conference and has notched double digits in each of his first seven games. Rogers is third overall in the Big Sky.
NAU is 3-4 on the season entering the final game before hosting two Big Sky Conference games after finals. Montana State (Dec. 17) and Montana (Dec. 19) visit Flagstaff for the first two league games before the holidays.
The first 300 students will have food provided by ASNAU for the "Study Break" game.
The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona (DISH: 415, DTV: 686, SUDD: 58), FOX West and NAU-TV (SUDD: 4/104) and fans can hear the game locally and online on 105.1 FM The Big Talker. Listen online or via the Big Talker mobile app.
Game Notes: Senior Gabe Rogers has 958 career points entering the Loyola Marymount game and is looking to become the 26th player in school history to reach 1,000 points... NAU senior Stallon Saldivar needs 17 more assists to reach 400 for his career....Only 11 players have amassed 400 career assists in the history of the Big Sky Conference.
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