FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona (10-13, 7-5 Big Sky) used the free throw line to slip past Southern Utah and come away with the 64-57 victory Saturday night at the Walkup Skydome. The win improved NAU's home conference record to 5-1.
"Obviously I'm happy we won and I'm happy we're 7-5 and that we've won as many games at home in conference as we did last year," said head coach Jack Murphy. "What we saw tonight is that there are many ways in which we can improve. At all times we have to get better and since the last time we played Southern Utah they got better. I think we've made some progress in areas but if we want to do what we want to do and get to where we want to go, we have to play better."
Southern Utah made the first basket of the game, but the lead would not hold. The Jacks took a 10-2 lead off back-to-back three-pointers by Quinton Upshur, followed by buckets from Aaseem Dixon and Gaellan Bewernick.
A layup by SUU's Cal Hanks brought the Thunderbirds to within four points at the 6:05 mark, but NAU took a six point lead into halftime.
Both teams shot were almost identical on the stats sheet, leaving it up to the second half to see who would come out on top.
NAU led from the 17:39 mark in the first to the 11:50 mark in the second. The Thunderbirds were able to close in on NAU and took their second lead of the game on a layup from John Marshall.
The Thunderbirds continued to peck at NAU, as they would not give up without a fight. The last tie of the game came at the 5:13 mark on a Trey Kennedy layup. Over the course of the final five minutes of the game, NAU outscored Southern Utah 15-8 to come away with the win.
Kris Yanku helped lift NAU to the win as he went 8-of-8 from the free throw line in the final two minutes.
As a team NAU hit 19-of-20 free throws in the second half, including its final 14 shots.
Upshur led all scorers with 20 points. Dixon registered 16, while Max Jacobsen added 11. Bewernick add six points and 12 rebounds. The Lumberjacks shot 38.8 percent from the floor.
Marshall was the top scorer for Southern Utah with 10 points. The Thunderbirds (1-19, 0-11 Big Sky) finished the game 50 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from the free throw line.
Notes: Double digit scoring games Quinton Upshur (21), Max Jacobsen (16), Aaseem Dixon (15)…Len Springs moves into a two-way tie for fifth all-time on the NAU season blocked shots chart with 43…Season high in rebounds for Gaellan Bewernick (12)…Southern Utah remains winless in conference play after losing its 19th straight contest this season.