Women’s Basketball to Close Non-Conference Season in Utah
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The NAU women's basketball team (5-5) opens a season-long four game road trip this weekend, closing non-conference play with games at Utah Valley (4-4) on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Utah State (5-4) on Monday at noon. The Lumberjacks are 5-1 at home this season but 0-4 on the road, looking to build some momentum away from Flagstaff before starting Big Sky play at Sacramento State on Dec. 29.
The Lumberjacks have averaged 73.3 points and 43.3 rebounds while shooting 42% in six home games compared to 55.2 points, 34.2 rebounds, and shooting 37% in four road games. Three of the four road teams NAU has played – Colorado, Iowa State, and South Dakota – have a combined 20-4 record this season. NAU will be facing Utah Valley for the second time this season, playing a non-conference opponent twice in one season for the first time since the 1993-94 team played both Cal State Northridge and Southern Utah twice. The Lumberjacks beat the Wolverines, 73-59, in Flagstaff on Nov. 23 in the first ever meeting between the teams.
In arguably the most intense and exciting non-conference home game in program history, NAU nearly pulled a colossal upset against Nebraska, which is 9-1 and now ranked No. 25 in the national AP poll. The Cornhuskers had defeated a pair of ranked teams this season and were outscoring their opposition by more than 20 points per game, but NAU had multiple chances to tally a win in forcing double overtime. A missed free throw in the final minute of regulation allowed the Huskers to tie the game with a three, though NAU still had a final shot for the win but came up short. The Lumberjacks had another final possession in the first overtime but again were unable to put the Cornhuskers away.
It took 63 combined points from Nebraska stars Jordan Hooper and Lindsay Moore to prevent NAU from the upset, with the Lumberjacks totaling five players with double-digit scoring, committing four less turnovers than Nebraska, and posting 21 offensive rebounds in an all-around brilliant performance against one of the best teams in the country.
NAU continued its superb play inside Rolle Activity Center, as, despite the loss to Nebraska, the Lumberjacks are still outscoring their opposition by an average of 10.8 points per game at home and average a 43.3-34.5 advantage in rebounding. NAU has shot 42% from the field and 36% from three-point range in its home gym and is +2.0 in turnover margin in Flagstaff. The team totaled 21 offensive rebounds against the Cornhuskers last week and is averaging 18.2 offensive rebounds per game at home. The Lumberjacks played their final non-conference home game against Nebraska and will host eight Big Sky games during conference play.
NAU sharpshooter Amanda Frost had a career-best performance against Nebraska and was a major reason that the Lumberjacks nearly scored a win, rightfully earning Big Sky Player of the Week honors. Frost made six of her first-seven three point attempts in the game, totaling a career-high 24 points while adding three steals and three assists in 31 minutes off the NAU bench. She had struggled from behind the arc in NAU's four prior games, combining to go 2-21 from long range, before regaining her lethal touch against the Cornhuskers.
The performance was her second outstanding game against a team from a major conference, as the sophomore drained five threes and led NAU with 18 points in the Lumberjacks' season opener at Colorado. Despite not starting a game this season, Frost is second on the team with 9.3 points per game and is tied for second with 17 total steals.
NAU and Utah Valley began play in the Hilton Garden Inn Thanksgiving Classic in Flagstaff on Nov. 23, with the Lumberjacks claiming a relatively easy 73-59 win. The Lumberjacks had a commanding 44-30 advantage on the glass and shot 45% for the game, led by 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals from junior Amy Patton. Utah Valley went on to defeat Kent State in their second game in Flagstaff and have gone 2-2 since then, including a 63-59 home win over fellow Big Sky member Weber State. Utah Valley is 3-1 at home this season.
Utah State begins the week at 5-4 and will host BYU on Saturday. After starting the season 5-1 with a four game winning streak, the Aggies have dropped three consecutive games, all on the road against Big Sky teams (Montana, Montana State, and Idaho State). Utah State also played Weber State earlier this year, scoring a 73-63 home win. The Aggies have particularly thrived at the free throw line this season where they have shot 82%, the second best free throw percentage in the NCAA. Individually, senior Ashlee Brown averages 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. NAU played Utah State in Flagstaff last season, taking an 80-75 loss after a late rally by the Aggies. NAU is 4-14 all-time against Utah State and lost in overtime the last time the teams met in Logan in 2008.