Lumberjacks Nearly Complete Comeback, Fall to Idaho 77-75

Ako Kaluna
Ako Kaluna

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team took Idaho down to the wire and nearly completed the 25-point come-from-behind victory. The Lumberjacks had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but a very long 3-point attempt by Kye de Laveaga was blocked by the Vandals, and Idaho escaped with the 77-75 victory.   

"Obviously, it was a great battle the last 15 minutes of the game," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. "Our defense wasn't what it needed to be in the first half, but give credit to our opponent for hitting shots. When we started to buckle down and show some resistance on the defensive side of the ball, though, it led to good offense. Unfortunately, just came up a little short."

The Lumberjacks struggled in the first half making only eight of their 25 field goal attempts. It didn't help that Jordyn Martin picked up a pair of quick fouls within the first-three minutes requiring him to sit out the rest of the first half give or take 30 seconds.

The Vandals offensive production came from guard Victor Sanders, who went a perfect 4-for-4 from long range in the first half. Sanders finished with 21 points after making his first six shot attempts.

Idaho went up by 25 points with 16:08 remaining in the game and the scoreboard reading 60-35 in favor of the Vandals.

NAU chipped away play-by-play and when the Vandals blinked, the Lumberjacks had cut away at the score and were within eight points when Marcus DeBerry nailed a 3-pointer at the 9:44 mark. Three minutes later it was a three-point ball game and NAU was the team with a mission.

Idaho was able to produce a nine-point advantage, but that did not deter NAU. In the final three minutes of play, NAU went from nine points down to two points with a chance to win it at the end.

NAU's last second shot came up short and the Vandals (16-12, 11-6 BSC) moved into a three-way for third-place.       

"That last 15, 16 minutes was some of the best basketball we've played all season, and I really liked our energy," said Murphy.  "In the second half, Martin came out with a fire in his eyes like I knew he would, and we received valuable contributions from guys like (Chris) Bowling, (JoJo) Anderson, de Laveaga, (Ako) Kaluna...just a total team effort to come back there. We put ourselves in a position to win the game despite the deficit earlier, and that's all you can ask as a coach from your team: hard work and hustle."

Martin notched 12 points and six rebounds despite only playing 19 minutes. The Lumberjacks were led by DeBerry's 13 points, while Ako Kaluna (12), de Laveaga (12), and Anderson rounded out NAU's top scorers.

NAU (8-22, 5-12 BSC) welcomes first place Eastern Washington (21-9, 13-4 BSC) on Mar. 4 for Senior Day. NAU fell to both teams earlier this season on the road. Next Saturday will be Senior Day for NAU's trio of Jaleni Neely, Ako Kaluna and Jordyn Martin.

The Lumberjacks have locked up the No. 9 seed in the Big Sky Tournament next weekend and will play at 2:35 p.m. in Reno against either Sacramento State or Portland State. NAU split the season series 1-1 with both programs.

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