MISSOULA, Mont. – NAU senior guard Amy Patton scored 32 points and sparked a late Lumberjack rally to force overtime before Montana battled back in the extra frame to score a 79-71 win in both teams' Big Sky opener on Thursday night. Senior Aubrey Davis added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Lumberjacks as NAU erased a seven point deficit in the final minute of regulation to push the Griz to overtime.
"This was definitely our hardest fought game and our effort was very good from the start to the finish," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "We dug down and fought to come back from a 16-point deficit as we got stops on defense and made shots on offense. We had a shot to win it at the end (of regulation) but didn't make it unfortunately."
Patton recorded her third game this season with 30 or more points, raising her Big Sky-leading season scoring average to 22.1 points per game. She tied a career-high with six 3-pointers in the contest and shot 13-of-23 overall while adding nine rebounds. Her 32 points raised her career total to 1,659 points as she now needs just 20 more points to break Alyssa Wahl's NAU career scoring record.
Montana (7-3, 1-0 BSC) led by 10 points, 61-51, with 2:23 to play before NAU (1-9, 0-1 BSC) staged a dramatic comeback. The Griz were still up by seven before a jumper by senior Paige Haynes brought the Lumberjacks within a 63-58 margin with 1:01 remaining in regulation. After a Griz turnover Patton hit her fifth 3-pointer of the game to bring NAU within two, and following a Montana misfire Patton drained another jumper to knot the score at 63-63 with 24 seconds to play. The Lumberjacks forced another turnover and had a final possession to win the game but a last second three by junior Patricia Gortarez wouldn't fall as the game went to overtime.
The Griz scored the first four points of OT before another Patton 3-ball brought NAU back within a point with 3:53 to play in OT. The Lumberjacks would not score again until there were 35 seconds left in the extra period as Montana used an 8-0 run to take a 75-66 lead. NAU sophomore Raven Anderson scored five points in the final 35 seconds but the Griz hit four late free-throws to hold on for a 79-71 win.
Davis recorded her second double-double of the season while shooting 5-of-8 from the field and pulling down seven of her 14 rebounds on the offensive glass. Haynes tied a career-high with 13 points in the contest while adding a career-high six rebounds and six assists. NAU outrebounded Montana 41-38 - the first time this season the team has outrebounded an opponent - and shot 44.6% to just 36.5% shooting for the Griz. The difference in the game came at the free-throw line, where Montana made 26-of-30 shots and NAU went 4-of-7.
"It was Aubrey that kept us in the game early as she scored very well and was on the boards," Darling said. "Everyone else was steady with a great effort and Amy definitely hit some big shots to get us back in it. Patricia gave us some good minutes and hit a big three and it really was a good team effort. I was disappointed in our effort the last time out and this game was a total turnaround so that's very, very promising."
Montana led by as many as 16 points in the second half after opening up a 40-24 lead as NAU was held scoreless for the first 6:45 of the second stanza. The Griz maintained a 16 point lead to the 12:30 mark of the half before an 8-0 Lumberjack run brought the visitors within a 42-35 deficit with just under 10 minutes to play. Montana would fight back to lead by as many as 10 points before NAU made its late run in the final two and a half minutes of regulation.
Patton sparked the Lumberjacks to an early 5-0 lead to open the game and the visitors had five-point leads again at 15-10 and 21-16. NAU held a 23-22 advantage with less than four minutes to play in the opening half but scored just one point over the final 4:49. Montana closed to half on an 8-1 run to take a 30-24 lead into the break.
Combined with going scoreless through the first 6:45 of the second half, NAU totaled just one point over more than an 11 and a half minute stretch ending the first half and opening the second half. The Lumberjacks were able to overcome that drought to force overtime before the Griz battled back to win their sixth straight game over NAU in Missoula dating back to the 2006-07 season.
The Lumberjacks will close their opening weekend of Big Sky play at 2 p.m. Saturday at Montana State. The Bobcats also dropped their Big Sky opener, losing to Sacramento State, 69-65, on Thursday.