FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Freshman guard DeWayne Russell tied his career-high with 25 points and the Lumberjacks posted a solid defensive effort that forced 20 turnovers to help defeat Sacramento State 57-50 at the Walkup Skydome on Thursday.
NAU improved to 5-8 on the season, including a 2-1 mark in Big Sky play. The Hornets dropped to 6-5, 1-2 in Big Sky play.
The Lumberjacks held the Hornets to 34 percent from the field and forced 20 turnovers. Sacramento State had four players averaging 10 or more points entering the game and the NAU defense held each below their season scoring average. Mikh McKinney scored just nine points (13.3 ppg.) and sophomore guard Dylan Garrity was held to six points (13.0 ppg.). John Dickson was leading the league in scoring at 15.8 points and was held to 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
"With DeWayne Russell playing head-to-head with Dylan Garrity, I thought he did a really good job of containing one of the better point guards in the league," said Murphy.
Senior guard Michael Dunn and Russell each had four steals in the game.
Leading 14-13 after hitting four early three-pointers, the Lumberjacks took the lead on a triple by Russell and never relinquished the lead the rest of the game despite leading by single digits over the final 31 minutes.
"Mike changed the entire complexion of the game when he came in during the first half," said Murphy. "There was a lot of scoring back and forth and we were relying on the three too much. Mike came in the game and gave us a defensive edge on that end of the floor."
NAU led by as many as six in the first half and took a five-point lead into the locker room behind 14 first-half points by Russell.
After not shooting a free throw in the first half, the Lumberjacks got to the line 20 times in the second half behind 12 attempts by Russell. It was valuable offense as the team managed just six second-half baskets and went 0-for-7 beyond the arc.
"DeWayne Russell getting to the foul line in the second half was huge and knocking down the free throws was even bigger," said Murphy. "We struggled shooting the ball once again but we had a lot of open looks at the rim."
Russell went 11-for-12 from the line in the second half to finish with a career-high tying 25 points in the contest. Senior guard Gabe Rogers added 11 points. Junior Max Jacobsen finished with seven points and six boards, while sophomore Gaellan Bewernick had a team-best seven rebounds.
Murphy was impressed with the overall defensive effort in the win.
"To win the game shooting 32 percent from the field and 27 percent from three, it shows how far our defense has come and how our attacking nature on offense is continuous," said Murphy.
NAU hit 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
Southern Utah visits for an afternoon contest on Saturday, January 5 with a 3:05 p.m. tipoff. Prior to the game, the Lumberjacks will host a free pre-game clinic for youth in sixth grade and under. The youth clinic will begin with a 10:45 a.m. check-in and the clinic will conclude at noon.
The clinic is limited to the first 150 youth. Pre-registration is required by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your child's name, age, and emergency contact name and phone number. Tickets will be only $5 for all youth and accompanying guests when their son/daughter wears their youth basketball jersey to the game. All youth and their guests will sit in the NAU student section while NAU students are away on break.
To purchase single game tickets for this game, click here or call 928-523-5661.