FULLERTON, Calif. – Northern Arizona put together its best defensive effort of the season in holding Cal State Fullerton to 28.6% shooting and withstood a frantic finish to score a 55-54 win on Friday night in Fullerton, Calif. NAU picked up its first win under new head coach Sue Darling to improve to 1-6 while Cal State Fullerton dropped to 2-5.
The Lumberjacks shot 47.6% from the field to continue their strong offensive play this season and overcame 31 offensive rebounds by the Titans to pull out the win. NAU also outscored CSF 13-10 from the free-throw line – the first time this season it posted a positive free-throw differential – and got double-digit scoring efforts from seniors Amy Patton, Paige Haynes, and Aubrey Davis in the victory.
The game was a back-and-forth battle as the score was tied at 52 with 3:31 to play. A pair of free throws by Haynes put NAU on top 54-52 at the 2:35 mark and she would add another free throw to give the Lumberjacks a 55-52 lead with 1:20 to play. Fullerton's Amanda Barfield hit a jumper to bring the home team within a 55-54 deficit with 1:02 remaining, and after an NAU shot clock violation the Titans had the ball with 27 seconds to play.
Fullerton would miss a pair of shots but maintain possession and missed another shot with four seconds to play before an NAU rebound and an immediate foul. The visitors would miss a pair of free throws but a last second half court heave came up short for the Titans as NAU held on for the win.
Haynes finished with a career-high 13 points while making 7-of-9 shots from the free-throw line and adding a game-high six assists. Patton, who entered the game as the second leading scorer in the nation at 25.0 points per game, finished with 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds while Davis added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. The Titans had a 48-28 advantage in rebounding and took 28 more shots in the game but made the same number of field goals (20) as did the Lumberjacks.
NAU led for most of the first half after jumping to an early 8-3 lead. The Lumberjacks maintained a five point lead to 14-9 at the 12:15 mark of the first half before Cal State Fullerton went on an 8-2 run as NAU has held to just one basket over a four minute stretch and the Titans took a 17-16 lead. NAU answered with a basket and a pair of free throws but the scored would be tied at 22 with 3:38 remaining in the half. Each team would make just one field goal for the remainder of the half, with the final 1:40 scoreless, as NAU took a 26-25 lead into the break.
A three-point play to start the second half gave the home team a 28-26 lead before NAU used an 8-0 run to take a game-high six point lead at 34-28 with 17:39 to play. The Lumberjacks led 36-30 with 16:00 remaining when the Titans used a 9-0 run to go up 40-36. NAU battled back to a 41-40 lead and neither team would lead by more than two points for the remainder of the contest.
The victory was NAU's first road nonconference win since December 18, 2006, ending a streak of 36 consecutive road nonconference losses for the program. The Lumberjacks will look to make it two in a row when they face UC Riverside at 3 p.m. Arizona time Sunday.