Defensive Stops Help NAU Top Montana State
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Northern Arizona University's men's basketball team hosted Montana State in Big Sky Conference matchup at the J.L. Walkup Skydome. NAU defeated Montana State 61-48 as the team was able to dominate the game defensively and on the glass winning the rebound battle 38 to 19.
"We played as good as we did all year on defense," said head coach Jack Murphy. "Montana State is a good team. For us to fight back the way we did was incredible. We're very proud of our defense tonight. Guys stepped up tonight and it was great. Their entire defense was focused tonight on shutting down Quinton Upshur and that allowed for other guys to get open."
The two teams exchanged baskets in the early stages of the game as it was tied at 10. Junior Gaellan Bewernick paced the Lumberjacks with two early three-point baskets. Montana State then erupted on an 11-2 run to take a 21-12 lead with 10:02 remaining.
NAU then responded with a run of its own thanks to some tough defense. The Lumberjacks finished the first half on a 21-8 run over the remaining 10 minutes. Senior Max Jacobsen led the way in the first half with 10 points as NAU went into the locker room with a 33-29 lead that they would not relinquish.
The beginning of the second half resembled that of the first as the two teams exchanged points early on. NAU then responded with a higher level of defensive intensity holding the Bobcats scoreless from the 12:55 mark to the 3:17 mark while on a 14-3 run. The Lumberjacks allowed just 11 points in the final 13 minutes of the game as the team pressured and forced Montana State into turnovers and tough shots. The Bobcats shot a less than impressive 26 percent from the field in the second half converting on just six field goals.
"We've been working really hard in practice," Jacobsen said. "Everyone has improved and has stepped up their rebounding and defense. We're playing better team ball all-around right now. I think our second half defense was the best we played all year.
NAU (14-16, 11-18 Big Sky) was led by Jacobsen's and Kris Yanku's 16 points apiece. Yanku led the way in the second half as the freshman tallied 12 points and grabbed three rebounds in the second period alone. Bewernick contributed 10 points in addition to sharing the top rebounding marks with Jacobsen at nine.
Top scorers for Montana State (14-16, 9-10 Big Sky) were Marcus Colbert with 13 points and Terrell Brown with 12 points.
Notes: Double figure scoring games: Max Jacobsen (19), Kris Yanku (13), Gaellan Bewernick (8)...Tonight's 61 points is the lowest in a win for NAU this season.