Record First Half Leads Women’s Basketball Past Sac State, 94-56
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – NAU scored a school-record 59 first half points on 54% shooting to take a 35-point halftime lead and cruise to a 94-56 win over Sacramento State on Saturday night in Rolle Activity Center. The Lumberjacks posted a 58-34 rebounding advantage and recorded a season-high 21 steals en route to their second Big Sky win, moving to 2-7 in conference play and 7-14 overall while the Hornets dropped to 8-14 overall and 3-6 in conference.
The 59 points scored by NAU in the first half eclipsed the previous school record for points in a half of 58, set against Idaho State in 2008. This came a week after NAU and Idaho State played the second-lowest scoring home game in NAU history, in which the Lumberjacks scored 44 total points for the game – 15 less than they scored in just the first half on Saturday – and lost 49-44.
"Our focus has been to cut harder, wait for screens longer, and play better team basketball, and we did that tonight," NAU head coach Laurie Kelly said. "We're a talented team if we are able to feed off everybody's strengths. The first half was great basketball; we ran a lot of good defense that led to offense."
"To me this was a team we had to beat," added Kelly. "We did what we needed to do tonight and that confidence, energy, and focus we've had in practice will hopefully build into this upcoming four-game road stretch. We know we're climbing up hill right now and it's essential that we don't give any games away."
The offensive blitz began early, as the Lumberjacks used an early 14-0 run to turn a 6-6 tie into a 20-6 lead at the 15:24 mark of the opening period. After the Hornets brought the score to 20-10, the Lumberjacks went on another extended run, outscoring the Hornets 13-2 over the next three and half minutes to go up 33-12. Up by 25 at 49-24 with 3:15 to play, NAU closed the half on a 10-0 spurt to take a commanding 59-24 halftime lead.
NAU outshot Sacramento State 54% to 31% in the first half and had a 30-17 rebounding advantage, including 13 offensive boards, to attempt 16 more shots than the visitors in the opening period. The Lumberjacks also forced 16 first half turnovers, totaling 23 points off the Hornet giveaways en route to the program record scoring total.
The Lumberjacks' field goal percentage dropped to 38% in the second half but he Hornets continued to struggle, shooting 36%. NAU would not trail by less than 31 points for the duration of the second period, with its lead growing to as many as 42 points in the final three minutes of the contest. The squad would come up just short of its third all-time 100 point game to end with 94 points, its highest scoring total since putting up 98 points against Sacramento State in 2010.
Junior Tyler Stephens-Jenkins led three Lumberjacks in double figures with 18 points, 14 of which came in the first half, on 7-of-9 shooting and a trio of three-pointers. Junior Amy Patton totaled 14 points and eight rebounds and sophomore Khyra Conerly finished with 10 points and equaled the team high with four assists. Sophomore Shay May had eight points and a team-high nine rebounds, and junior Caty Huntington had five of NAU's 21 steals, which equaled the fifth-best single game steals mark in program history.
"We just came out ready to play tonight," said Stephens-Jenkins. "We felt like they stole the game from us up there (Sacramento State won 91-85 in double overtime), so we didn't want the same thing happening again. "
NAU will play its last-four conference road games over the next two weeks beginning at Eastern Washington at 7:05 PM next Thursday.