FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – NAU sophomore forward Erikka Banks had career-highs of 18 points and nine rebounds and Northern Arizona outscored North Dakota 7-3 in overtime to record a 64-60 win on Saturday afternoon in Rolle Activity Center.
"I'm proud of the team," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "We have a tendency to not shoot a lot of free throws and in this game we shot 28, which is incredible. We have an athletic team, we have a team that is very strong going to the hoop, and we need to take advantage of that and force people to guard us and we're getting to the point where we're doing that."
The game was close throughout with seven ties and 10 lead changes with neither team leading by more than six points. NAU led by two with 12 seconds left in regulation before UND drew a foul and made two free-throws. The Lumberjacks drew an ensuing foul but were unable to convert from the free-throw line with five seconds left as the game went to overtime.
UND's Madi Buck hit a three to give North Dakota a 60-57 lead a minute and a half into overtime, but that would be their only field goal of the extra period. NAU senior Aubrey Davis hit consecutive shots to put NAU up 61-60 with two minutes to play, and that score remained until Lumberjacks senior Amy Patton hit a jumper to put the home team up 63-60 with under a minute remaining.
Banks forced an ensuing steal and hit another free-throw to put NAU up four, and after North Dakota missed consecutive threes Lumberjack junior Amanda Frost grabbed a rebound with 26 seconds left. Inexplicably North Dakota did not immediately foul, and NAU was able to spread the floor and run the final 26 seconds off the clock to close out the win.
"We've been practicing end-of-game situations and so we know what to do," Darling said. "They're becoming calm and cool under pressure. They know how to do it and they're beginning to trust and believe in themselves and they're delivering."
Banks got to the free-throw line 15 times, making 10 en route to her career-high point total. Patton finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Davis added 15 points and seven boards and Frost totaled 11 points. Northern Arizona (7-17, 6-9 Big Sky) outshot North Dakota (10-15, 5-11 Big Sky) 37.9% to 30.5% for the game while North Dakota had a slim 43-41 rebounding margin.
There were four ties and six lead changes in the first half as neither team led by more than four points. The Lumberjacks trailed 14-13 after a UND 3-pointer at the 10:13 mark but scored the next five points to take an 18-14 lead. NAU still led by four at 28-24 with 1:45 left in the opening period but North Dakota closed the half with a pair of free-throws and a jumper to level the score at 28-28 at halftime.
NAU jumped to a game-high six point lead at 38-32 at the 14:37 mark of the second half. North Dakota rallied back to tie the score at 39-39 with just under 10 minutes to play and moved to a game-high 44-40 lead at the 8:25 mark after a 9-1 run.
The Lumberjacks tied the game back up at 46-46 and extended back to a 53-48 lead with 3:18 remaining in the second half. With the home team leading 55-51 North Dakota got a 3-point strike to get back within one, and NAU's lead was two with 12 second left after Davis made a pair of free throws and North Dakota answered with one. The two-late UND free-throws sent the game to OT before NAU emerged victorious.
"Erikka's been coming on ever since she got back on the court following her preseason injury," said Darling of the performance of her sophomore forward. "She's been getting better and better and she's one of our most effective players against the zone because she attacks the hoop. She's played great defense for us but this was definitely the best offensive output she's given to us so far this year."
NAU will return to action in the Skydome next Saturday when it will host Sacramento State at 6:35 p.m. The game will be part of National Girls and Women's in Sports Day which will begin at 3 p.m. Click here for more information on the event.