FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Portland State senior guard Courtney VanBrocklin hit a free-throw with 1.4 seconds left in the game to break a 59-59 tie and lift the Vikings to a come-from-behind 60-59 win over NAU on Saturday night in the Walkup Skydome. Portland State erased a seven point deficit with less than three minutes to play to secure the win and end NAU's two-game winning streak.
"This loss hurts," said NAU assistant coach Jamie Shadian, who was filling in for head coach Sue Darling after she fell ill prior to the game. "I thought we had the game in our hands for the whole game up until the last couple of minutes. They came up with some really big boards at the end of the game and that gave them extra opportunities that killed us."
The Lumberjacks took an eight-point at 58-50 lead with 5:10 to play after a jumper by senior Amy Patton, but that would be the team's last field goal of the contest. NAU maintained a 58-51 advantage as the clock dipped below three minutes but following a 3-pointer and two layups by the Vikings sandwiched around an NAU free-throw make the Lumberjack lead was reduced to 59-58 with 1:19 to play.
VanBrocklin hit a free-throw with 33 seconds remaining to tie the game at 59, then missed her second shot from the charity stripe before a rebound by teammate Angela Misa. After a timeout Misa was called for an offensive foul to give NAU possession, but an ensuing steal by VanBrocklin gave the ball back to Portland State. An NAU foul sent VanBrocklin back to the line, where she hit her first shot to give the visitors a 60-59 lead with less than two second to play. She missed the second free-throw but got her own rebound and ran out the clock for the PSU win.
NAU (3-11, 2-3 Big Sky) led by as many as 11 points in the first half and was up four at halftime before the visitors battled back late in the second half. The Lumberjacks shot 44.6% for the game but were 0-of-14 from 3-point range – their first game this season without a 3-point make. NAU scored 46 of its 59 points in the paint and had nine free-throw makes as the team totaled just two made field goals from outside the lane. Portland State (8-7, 2-4 Big Sky) shot just 32.3% but outscored NAU 15-9 from the free-throw line and had 20 offensive rebounds.
Patton finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists while playing all 40 minutes. Senior Tyler Stephens-Jenkins had another strong game with 14 points and four rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting and junior Amanda Frost also tallied 14 points with five rebounds and career-highs of five assists and three blocks. VanBrocklin totaled 20 points and five steals and Misa had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Filling in as a head coach for the first time in her career, Shadian commended her team for holding strong in the absence of their head coach.
"When you're the top assistant you're in a position where at any time if something happens to the head coach, you have to be ready to step up," Shadian said. "I was proud of the way the players responded. They stayed together, they stayed confident, and that meant a lot to me. It shows what kind of kids they are and what kind of team we have."
The Lumberjacks started strong in making their first four shots and jumping to an early 8-2 lead. NAU's lead reached double-figures at 18-8 with 12:01 left in the opening half and got to 11 points at 30-19 with 4:36 remaining. NAU had just one field goal for the remainder of the half as Portland State used a 7-0 run to get back within a 30-26 margin and trailed 32-28 at halftime.
Portland State started the second half on a 6-2 spurt to level the score at 34-34. The score remained close to a 46-46 draw with 9:43 to play before NAU went on a 8-0 run over more than three minutes to take a 54-46 lead. The home team's lead was still eight at 58-50 with 5:10 to play before the Vikings made their run.
NAU will continue its season-long four-game home stand with two more games next week in the Walkup Skydome, first hosting Weber State at 6:35 p.m. next Thursday.