POCATELLO, Idaho – An 8-2 Idaho State spurt to start the second half extended its halftime lead out to nine points and the Northern Arizona women's basketball team was never able to fully recover as they fell 82-72 at Reed Gym Saturday afternoon. The Bengals shot 64 percent from long distance in the second half and 50 percent for the game in denying the Lumberjacks of a second consecutive victory. NAU concluded the first half of the Big Sky schedule with a 3-7 mark and is now 6-13 overall.
"I thought our defense was solid in the first half but they scored 52 on us in the second half which is way too many," said head coach Sue Darling. "We didn't have the energy and they forced us to take some bad shots. We did a nice job of attacking; Erikka (Banks) had a good game offensively. We didn't have good chemistry and we are a team that normally has good chemistry. It's back to the grind working on our defense and we'll be in good shape."
Idaho State raced out to an 8-0 lead before senior Amanda Frost converted an and-1 nearly three minutes into the game. Despite missing nine of their first 10 shot attempts, the Lumberjacks was able to hang around because they repeatedly got to rim and drew fouls to head to the free-throw line. Idaho State also turned the ball over on seven occasions in the first nine minutes. Junior Erikka Banks' three-pointer gave NAU its first lead of the game at 12-10 with 10:32 remaining in the first half, but the lead would be traded several times over the next few minutes.
Four straight points by Frost handed the Lumberjacks their largest lead at 20-17 at the 7:47 mark and they led by two following a layup from freshman Priscilla Brooks with 1:10 to play before halftime. The Bengals' Alissa Willard stole the momentum and scored the final five points of the half though and the home team held a slight 30-27 halftime lead.
The lead grew to 38-29 less than two minutes into the second half and the Lumberjacks were forced to play comeback. Every NAU run was answered by a hot-shooting Idaho State team though and the Bengals led by as much as 12 points with 11:15 remaining in the game. Down eight with 8:23 left, the Lumberjacks had a big shift in momentum as a fastbreak layup by freshman Rene Coggins was followed by a heads up steal by Frost off the ensuing inbounds pass. Frost followed with a three-pointer swiftly slicing the Lumberjack deficit to three at 57-54.
A corresponding 15-4 run by the Bengals did the damage in the end as NAU found itself behind by 14 minutes within the next two and a half minutes and they never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
The Bengals hit 7-of-11 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes and hit a critical shot every time the Lumberjacks grabbed the momentum. For the game, they shot 49 percent while limiting the Lumberjacks to 37 percent, their lowest percentage since Jan. 16. Idaho State did not have a huge rebounding advantage, only 37-34, and they turned the ball over five more times than NAU, but it made six more threes than the Lumberjacks. NAU shot 75 percent from the free-throw line (24-of-32).
Banks finished with a game-best 27 points, one point shy of tying her career-high. She shot 7-of-10 and set a new career-best with 12 free throws out of 14 attempts. Frost was the only other Lumberjack in double-figures, one game after NAU had a season-best six players in double-digits, with 23 points while posting four steals. Freshman Brittani Lusain had a team-high six rebounds and three assists.
NAU is back home for a one-game week next Thursday, Feb. 6, versus Sacramento State to start the final half of the conference season. The Lumberjacks fell to the Hornets, 104-79, on Jan. 9 in Sacramento and will enter the final 10 games tied for ninth in the Big Sky. Tipoff is at 6:30 in the Walkup Skydome. Prior to the game, the team will host its second annual NAU Women's Basketball Wine Down event where participants can enjoy massages, wine, beer and snacks one hour prior to tipoff. For more information, call 928-523-0639.