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January 23, 2014

Lumberjacks Stunned in Overtime Heartbreaker by UNC

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Colorado's Lindsay Mallon drained a three-pointer and beat the regulation buzzer to send the game into overtime before stunning the Northern Arizona women's basketball team, 86-82, in the extra period Thursday night in the Skydome. The Bears outscored the Lumberjacks 13-9 in overtime to drop NAU's conference record to 2-5 and 5-11 overall.

"I'm really proud of the team and I thought we had great fight tonight," said head coach Sue Darling. "We let them back in the game early in the second half but we came back and grabbed the lead again. But tonight was a game of free throws. They scored theirs and we didn't make ours."

Free throws turned out to be the big difference in the game as the Lumberjacks shot just 62.5 percent for the game, making 15 of their 24 attempts. Meanwhile, the Bears converted on 26-of-32 (81.3 percent) from the charity stripe giving them an 11-point advantage at the line.

The first half was controlled by NAU as it shot a crisp 66.7 percent from the field in the opening stanza. The Lumberjacks took a 41-31 lead into halftime after busting open a tight contest to begin the night. Down 23-20, NAU went on a 10-0 spurt over a three and a half minute span with five players each contributing two points each to take a 30-23 lead with 5:27 to play before the half, which grew to its 10-point margin heading into the intermission.

The Bears came out of the gates strong though in the second half, scoring 16 of the first 20 points to take a 47-45 with 12:55 remaining. Senior Amanda Frost then scored five straight points to put the Lumberjacks back on top, 50-47. Despite numerous efforts by the Bears to bring the score on the board back to even, the Lumberjacks remained out in front leading by five as late as the 3:35 mark following a layup by freshman Brittani Lusain.

In the final minute, the Bears were held the slim edge, 70-69, following two free throws by Stephanie Lee, before Frost made a layup to put NAU back in the driver's seat. Two free throws from Lusain extended the Lumberjack lead to 73-70 with nine seconds remaining, but Mallon's dramatic shot sent the game into overtime.

Freshman Rene Coggins gave the Lumberjacks the early lead in overtime with a jumper on the team's first possession, but the Bears knocked down four free throws on back-to-back possessions to give the visitors a critical 79-76 advantage with 2:49 left. Frost pulled the Lumberjacks within one at 83-82 with a layup after the Bears split their trip to the free throw line. UNC then made one-of-two again at the line, giving the Lumberjacks an opportunity down two, but a turnover by Coggins on the next possession cut short NAU's comeback.

"We're putting a lot of responsibility on our freshmen in their first season of college ball and they're stepping up," Darling said. "To be in a close game, it's part of the deal. I was proud of our team for not backing down and at the end of the day, including myself, learned a lot from this game."

NAU shot 52.5 percent from the field for the game, but struggled in the overtime period making just three of its nine shots. Northern Colorado shot 44.3 percent but was able to get to the line in the final five minutes with nine of its 13 points in overtime coming at the free-throw line.

Frost finished with a game-high 31 points, her third 30-point game of the season, and reset her career-high with 13 field goal makes. She added seven assists and a team-high four steals. Junior Erikka Banks had 15 points and eight rebounds and Lusain matched her 15 points along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Coggins rounded out NAU's double-digit scorers with 10. Freshman Priscilla Brooks pulled down eight rebounds and posted a career-high four  blocks, the most of any Lumberjack this season, off the bench.

The Lumberjacks host North Dakota, Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Skydome. The game will be shown live on Fox Sports Arizona and NAU-TV.