Women's Hoops Brings Momentum to the Pacific Northwest
Opponent: Eastern Washington (Thursday, Jan. 16/7:00 p.m.)
Location: Cheney, Wash.
Live Stats: www.goeags.com
Opponent: Portland State (Saturday, Jan. 18/3:00 p.m.)
Location: Portland, Ore.
Live Stats: www.goviks.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Rallying from an 18-point halftime deficit, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team is riding a wave of momentum as they head up to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to face Eastern Washington on Thursday and Portland State on Saturday. Senior Amanda Frost led the Lumberjacks' second half comeback past Southern Utah on Monday with a career-high 34 points and is now averaging 20.8 points per game this season.
NAU picked up its first Big Sky victory of the season, and snapped a six-game losing skid, with its 82-77 defeat of Southern Utah and Frost was one of four Lumberjacks in double-figures. Junior Erikka Banks just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds, freshman Rene Coggins had her third double-digit scoring game in her last four with 14 points and freshman Brittani Lusain returned to the lineup with 10 points and five assists off the bench.
Series History: The Lumberjacks swept Eastern Washington last season between the two regular season meetings. In the first meeting in Flagstaff, the Lumberjacks shot 52 percent from the field and had five players in double-figure scoring, including 10 from junior Raven Anderson in just 14 minutes off the bench, as they used a big second half to win 83-68. NAU then used an 11-0 run to erase a six-point deficit with 3:08 to play to defeat the Eagles, 62-58, in Cheney. The win was the first by NAU in Cheney since 2007 where it is just 7-20 all-time. EWU holds a 31-24 advantage in the all-time series.
Unlike against Eastern Washington, NAU was swept by Portland State last season with both losses coming by a combined six points. The Vikings stole the first game in Flagstaff, hitting a free throw with 1.4 seconds remaining to cap a seven-point comeback with less than three minutes to play, winning 60-59. The second meeting between the two teams was similar to the first as Portland State broke a tie with five minutes left and held the Lumberjacks scoreless in the final 3:53 to win 66-61. The Lumberjacks have lost the last seven meetings and 12 of 13. NAU has a 19-18 edge but has not won in Portland since March 4, 2006.
Coach Sue Darling Quote for the Week: "I was really proud of our kids (on Monday) and they never gave up. They stuck with the game plan and they put their whole heart into the game. The win was big and it was abreakthrough for us. It's something that will carry us into the weekend coming up. Both Eastern Washington and Portland State are quality Big Sky teams. Our defense is getting better, we're taking care of the ball a little better and if we can do those things and rebound the ball, we'll be in good shape."
About Eastern Washington (6-8, 2-3 Big Sky): Eastern Washington suffered a pair of hard fought losses last week on the road at Montana and Montana State. In their 81-64 loss to the Lady Griz, the Eagles fought back to close within six in the second half before Montana pulled away and the Eagles then saw Montana State end the game on a 25-11 run to steal a 78-74 victory. The two losses came after the preseason Big Sky favorites to win the conference defeated Weber State and Idaho State at home the week prior.
EWU may be the conference's top overall shooting team as it leads the Big Sky in three-point percentage and free throw percentage and ranks second, just ahead of NAU, in field goal percentage. Junior Lexie Nelson is third in the conference in scoring with a team-high 17.5 points per game and senior Laura Hughes is eighth at 14.1 per contst. Hughes is second in field goal percentage, shooting at a .558 clip. Nelson also ranks third in free throw percentage (.852) and three-point percentage (.474). Junior Kylie Huerta and senior Aubrey Ashenfelter are one-two in assist/turnover ratio.
About Portland State (4-10, 2-3 Big Sky): Portland State also fell to both Montana State and Montana last week after beginning the conference season at 2-1, including a victory over Eastern Washington in Cheney. The Vikings dropped a 89-78 game to MSU and then fell behind early to Montana in an eventual 94-58 loss.
Senior Kate Lanz leads four Vikings in double-figures points with 13.0 and also ranks fourth in the conference in assists at 4.7 per game. Senior Angela Misa averages nearly a double-double a game with 10.9 points and 9.0 rebounds, which ranks second in the Big Sky. Senior Allie Brock and sophomore Emily Easom also score in double-figures at 12.2 and 10.2 points per game respectively.
Iron Legs: Four Lumberjacks rank in the top-10 in the Big Sky in minutes played as practicing at Flagstaff's 7,000 feet elevation has paid dividends. Frost is tied for first in the conference with 35.8 minutes per game and Coggins is third at 33.9. Banks and Lusain round out the top-10 at 32.5 and 31.8 respectively.
Making the Freebies: The Lumberjacks started the season slow at the free-throw line, shooting worse than 66.7 percent in eight of their first 10 games, they have stepped it up in their last three games. In their last three games, NAU has shot better than 85 percent combining to shoot 53-for-60 (.883) as a team from the charity stripe. This included a season bests in terms of makes and misses of 30-of-34 versus Montana State on Jan. 4.
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