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January 31, 2013

Women’s Basketball Rallies but Falls at Sacramento State

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The NAU women's basketball team battled back from a 19-point first half deficit to take a lead midway through the second half but was outlasted by Sacramento State, 73-67, on Thursday night in Sacramento.

"(Sacramento State) plays differently than what we're used to so it took a little bit of getting used to, but once we settled in we did exactly what we wanted to do," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "We played solid defense, we got decent rebounding, and we ran decent offense. It was definitely a tale of two halves. We didn't settle in as quickly as we needed to and that put us in the hole, but I'm proud of the team and their effort."

The Lumberjacks trailed 35-16 at the 3:59 mark of the first half before ending the half on a 10-3 run and extending to a 39-19 stretch as the team took a 55-54 lead with 11:26 left in the game. NAU trailed by just three points with 30 seconds to play but the Hornets were able to hold on to their late lead.

"We were just more composed and played better team basketball (in the second half)," Darling said. "They had us on our heels a little bit in the first half and once we figured out that we could attack them and get easy layups we started doing that."

NAU still trailed by eight points at 54-46 with 12:53 to play but used a 9-0 run over the next minute and a half, with the last four points of the stretch scored by sophomore Raven Anderson, to take what would be their only lead of the game at 55-54. The Hornets went back up by as many as five points and led by that margin with 30 seconds to play before two free-throw makes by NAU senior Paige Haynes brought the visitors within a 70-67 deficit.

With the shot clock off the Lumberjacks had to foul and sent Sacramento State's Fantasia Hilliard to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1. She missed the front end and NAU grabbed the defensive rebound but Hilliard stole the ball back and the Lumberjacks had to foul her again. She then made two free-throws to put the home team back up by two possessions and NAU was unable to connect on a pair of late 3-point attempts as the Hornets hung on for the win.

The teams had identical 25-of-72 (34.7%) shooting lines, but Sacramento State (11-8, 6-4 Big Sky) made seven 3-pointers to five by the Lumberjacks and had a 16-12 advantage at the free-throw line. Northern Arizona (4-15, 3-7 Big Sky) had a 51-49 rebounding advantage and held Sacramento State to 25.7% shooting in the second half after the Hornets shot 43.2% in the first half. After the Lumberjacks missed their first nine 3-point attempts of the game they made five on a row but ended up just 5-of-20 from 3-point range.

NAU junior guard Amanda Frost led all scorers with 18 points in the contest while hitting three 3-pointers. Senior Amy Patton totaled 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds while Anderson finished with 14 points and seven boards. Patton set the NAU program record for career field goal's made during the contest and moved to within 11 rebounds of NAU's career rebounding record. Five Hornets scored in double-figures, all with either 11 or 12 points.

The Hornets jumped on NAU early in the first half, taking a 13-2 lead just over four minutes into the game as they started the contest 3-of-3 from 3-point range. The Lumberjacks trailed by at least seven points for the remained of the half as the Hornets took their game-high 19-point lead with 3:59 to play, at which time NAU used a 7-0 run to kick start its 39-19 spurt to erase the entirety of its 19-point hole.

While the loss was disappointing, Darling was encouraged by the resiliency of her team and the fight it showed in battling back in a tough road environment.

"I think the team should feel really good about the effort," Darling said. "We definitely are playing better so we look forward to taking that into Monday."

NAU will play three games - in three states and two time zones - over six days next week, first hosting Southern Utah at 6:35 p.m. Monday in the Walkup Skydome. The first "Women's Basketball Wine Down" event will take place before Monday's contest beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Skydome. Click here for more information.