Photo by Mackenzie Kasper
OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team challenged the Big Sky-leading Weber State Wildcats on the road before falling 83-70 at the Dee Events Center Thursday night.
The Lumberjacks played a good first half, leading for most of the first 15 minutes over the first-place Wildcats. The game featured eight ties and six lead changes as NAU and Weber State exchanged the lead in the first half. The Wildcats closed the half on an 8-0 run to take a 38-31 lead into halftime.
"Before the game we talked about playing 200 minutes," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. "I thought out of the 200 minutes in the game we played about 180 minutes. For us, it was little minute and two-minute spurts that cost us tonight. Our offense was really good and we moved the basketball and shot 50 percent from floor for the second straight game."
WSU extended the lead in the second half and held off the Lumberjacks with a huge advantage on the free throw line, shooting 29-of-33 for the game after an 8-for-8 first half. NAU made just 8-of-15 from the charity stripe.
"We have to do a better job of keeping teams off the foul line," said Murphy. "For the second straight game we were out-shot on the foul line by double digits. Honestly, that came down to be the deciding factor. They made their free throws and we sent them there too much. We did not make ours when we had the opportunity."
Weber State extended the lead to 14 points with 13:27 to play but NAU responded with a 6-0 run to cut the lead back to eight points with 10:00 to play. The Lumberjacks would never get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Lumberjacks turned the ball over just seven times but the Wildcats recorded nine blocks. Weber State shot 55 percent from the floor in the second to aid their winning effort.
Weber State was led by Kyle Tresnak with a game-high 23 points. Forward Davion Berry scored 17 points and Joel Bolomboy added 13 off the bench.
NAU had four players in double figures in the game. Junior forward Max Jacobsen led the scoring for the Lumberjacks with 18 points, shooting 9-for-11 from the field. Freshman guard DeWayne Russell added 15 points, while Utah native Stallon Saldivar had 12 points and senior guard Gabe Rogers chipped in 11.
"We are doing a great job of sharing the basketball and once again Max led the way in the post," said Murphy. "He is getting great looks at the basket. It is a credit to the guards and the four-man with him on the floor. We are getting him the ball where he can score."
The Lumberjacks shot 50 percent from the field for the second consecutive game against one of the nation's toughest defensive units. The Wildcats entered the game 18th in the country in field goal percentage defense.
"A lot of it is running a good offense and getting good looks at the rim," said Murphy. "We were 28-of-51 on two-point shots. When we run our offense, share the basketball and not care about who gets the glory, we are pretty good."
WSU is now 12-3 on the season with a perfect 7-0 mark in Big Sky play. NAU fell to 5-12 and 2-5 in league play.
"It is a game we can learn from but ultimately it is another loss and we have to start winning some games," said Murphy.
The Lumberjacks have lost four straight and seven of the last eight overall.
"It is not any one thing," said Murphy. "It is an accumulation of the smaller, little plays that we have to make. For us to compete, especially against the best team Weber State, we have to play pretty darn well for the entire game. We cannot go through stretches where we do not play as well. They did a great job of taking advantage when we had our miscues."
NAU travels to Pocatello, Idaho, to take on Idaho State on Saturday starting at 7:05 p.m.
"For us, it is about mental preparation from this point forward," said Murphy. "We had a tough game on the road and we need to rest up Friday and be ready to go on Saturday."
The game will be broadcast on 105.1 The Big Talker in Flagstaff, online on their website and via the Big Talker mobile app. Fans can also watch the game on Big Sky TV.