ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Senior Amy Patton scored a game-high 33 points and became the program's second all-time leading scorer in the process, but it was not enough as the Northern Arizona women's basketball team dropped its 2012-13 season opener to New Mexico, 68-57, in front of a crowd of 6,072 at The Pit on Friday night. The Lobos spoiled Sue Darling's NAU head coaching debut as they rallied from an early deficit and held on for the victory despite a valiant effort by the Lumberjacks.
"I thought we did a great job executing on offense, but we have to improve our defense," Darling said. "Obviously Amy put the ball through the hoop tonight, but we have to get more people involved. They had pretty even scoring and it just came down to defense at the end."
Patton entered the night 12 points shy of second place in NAU's all-time scoring record book and got off to a scorching start, draining her first three shots in the first two minutes of the game and helping the Lumberjacks to an early lead. She would eventually move past Jess LeBlanc with her 1,451st and 1,452nd points on a jumper at the 8:54 mark that gave NAU a brief 20-19 lead. Following a Lobo basket on the ensuing possession, Patton spurred an 8-0 run with her third three-pointer of the half. Her triple was followed by a three by senior Paige Haynes and a layup by sophomore Raven Anderson that put the Lumberjacks ahead by seven, their largest lead of the game, at 28-21 with a little over five minutes to go before the half. However, the Lobos would close the half on a 12-4 surge and entered halftime with a one-point advantage, 33-32.
Patton began the second period just as she started the game with a jumper that once again put NAU ahead, but the Lobos would take the lead for good two possessions later. The Lumberjacks were able to cut the eventual double-digit deficit down to as little as five points on two occasions from there on out, but were eventually saddled with the 11-point defeat.
The loss marked an improvement from the last time the Lumberjacks traveled to The Pit as New Mexico handed NAU a 72-40 defeat the last time the two teams met in Albuquerque in 2009.
Patton's 33 points was the second-highest single game total of her career as she finished the night with a stellar all-around game, recording five rebounds, three assists and four steals to go along with her game-high point total. She shot 12-of-25 from the field and 4-of-10 from behind the arc, notching more than half of the team's total field goals and three-point makes while playing all 40 minutes. Anderson, making her first career start, finished with nine points and six rebounds, while senior Aubrey Davis recorded a game-high 11 rebounds. Haynes also played the full 40 minutes and finished with seven points and equaled Patton's three assists for the team-lead.
The Lumberjacks shot 40 percent from the field as compared to 45 percent by the Lobos. After shooting 45 percent in the first half, NAU shot just 35 percent in the decisive second half while New Mexico converted on 46 percent of its attempts in the final 20 minutes. The Lobos also held a 41-32 advantage on the glass and had 17 assists to the Lumberjacks' 10 for the game. NAU was able to post 11 steals for the game, just under its 11.8 per game average from a year ago which ranked 20th in the nation.
"Every game is critical and every game counts," Darling said. "This is a great place to play and we responded well. I don't think they were rattled by the crowd at all and I thought they embraced the crowd. We just ended up on the short end of the stick tonight."
NAU will have a quick turnaround as it hosts CSU Bakersfield on Monday at 6:35 p.m. in the Rolle Activity Center. Monday's home opener will be televised live on Fox Sports Arizona Plus, Fox College Sports and NAU-TV with Jordan Byrd and Sharon Falor on the call. The Roadrunners defeated the Lumberjacks last season in Bakersfield, 86-77.