CHENEY, Wash. – Northern Arizona trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half and was down six with 3:08 to play before riding an 11-0 run to a 62-58 come-from-behind win over Eastern Washington on Saturday in Cheney.
"We obviously didn't start the way we wanted to start but we had enough where-with-all to stay with it and stick with what was working," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "I couldn't be more proud of this team. It was a tough game and these kids earned that win."
NAU trailed 56-50 with 3:08 to play before scoring the next 11 points. The Lumberjacks brought the score even as senior Tyler Stephens-Jenkins made a pair of layups around a jumper from senior Amy Patton to tie the game at 56-56 with 44 seconds to play.
After a missed free-throw NAU sophomore Erikka Banks grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled before draining two free-throws to give NAU its first lead in the second half. Eastern Washington missed a shot and Patton made two free-throws after getting fouled, and after another Eagle miss senior Aubrey Davis hit a free-throw to extend NAU's lead to 61-56 with 17 seconds to play.
Eastern Washington committed three turnovers and missed five shots during the three-minute stretch before hitting a pair of free-throws with eight seconds left. After Davis was fouled Banks grabbed another offensive board and added a free-throw to ice the four-point win.
"This was a huge game and it's a huge win," Darling said. "I'm really proud of these guys for sticking with what we've been doing."
Patton finished with a game-high 18 points and six steals while junior Amanda Frost posted 12 points and four steals. Banks played the best game of her sophomore season in totaling 10 points and eight rebounds while shooting 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
"We needed this game to get our momentum back," Banks said. "I just went out there and gave it my all for my team and my coaches. I was very nervous (shooting late free throws) but I focused in and made them for my team."
The Lumberjacks trailed by five points at halftime and were down 12 at 45-33 with 14:36 remaining in the second half. An 8-0 spurt brought NAU back within a 45-41 deficit but the visitors were not able to get any closer than four points until the late 11-0 spurt spurred them to a win.
NAU shot 47.6% in the second half while holding EWU to 33.3% shooting after the Eagles shot 51.9% in the first half. The Lumberjacks held a 32-29 rebounding advantage for the game and forced 18 Eagle turnovers with 15 steals. The visitors also had a 16-7 advantage at the free-throw line as the Eagles only shot eight free throws in the contest.
There were several extended runs by both teams in both halves as NAU opened an early 7-0 lead before EWU had a 14-2 run to take a 14-9 lead. The Eagles led 24-15 before a 10-0 run gave the Lumberjacks a 25-24 lead. NAU trailed 29-27 before Eastern's Aubrey Ashenfelter hit a three at the first half- buzzer to put the Eagles up 33-27 at halftime.
With the win Northern Arizona (6-16, 5-8 Big Sky) equaled Southern Utah, Portland State, and North Dakota with five conference victories as the teams battle for seventh and final qualifying spot for the Big Sky Championship. NAU completed a season sweep of Eastern Washington (13-10, 9-5 Big Sky) while handing the Eagles just their second home Big Sky loss and winning in Cheney for the first time since 2007.
NAU returns home for its next three games starting at 6:35 p.m. Thursday vs. Northern Colorado in Rolle Activity Center.