FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team mounted a second-half rally that sliced their 18-point halftime deficit to four points, but Sacramento State held on for a 99-91 victory Thursday night. The Lumberjacks (6-14 overall, 3-8 Big Sky) shot 51.4 percent from the field and outrebounded the Hornets by a 47-40 margin, but a subpar first half and costly missed layups ultimately proved too much to overcome.
"We tried to limit their possessions by controlling the ball offensively and playing good defense, but we gave up 99 points so our defense hindered us again tonight," said head coach Sue Darling. "We shot 51 percent and 79 percent from the line and we got layup after layup. Unfortunately we missed too many wide open layups at the end of the day."
Sacramento State, the second-highest scoring team in the nation, bombed away from long distance early and often. The Hornets lead the country in three-pointers made per game and hit five in the first five minutes to race out to a 15-8 lead. NAU attempted to hang around by maintaining possession late in the shot clock, but the visitors gunned their way to a 51-33 lead at halftime by knocking down 12 threes in the first 20 minutes. The Lumberjacks turned the ball over 13 times which also led to a 20-2 Hornet advantage on points off turnovers.
The second half was a different story as the Lumberjacks shot 54.5 percent in the final 20 minutes and got repeated looks at the rim in transition as they chased their second come-from-behind victory down 18 points this season. NAU slowly crept its way back in the game as it trailed by 14 four minutes in and by 11 at the 13:31 mark. The deficit grew back to 19 halfway through the half before an 11-2 run capped off by a Rene Coggins layup brought the Lumberjacks within 10 with 7:28 to play for the first time since eight minutes remained in the first half.
Consecutive triples by senior Amanda Frost and Coggins got the Lumberjacks within six and a layup from Brittani Lusain closed the Sacramento State gap to 89-85 with 3:53 left. The Lumberjacks got as close as 93-89 following two Erikka Banks free-throws with 47 seconds left but that would be as close as they got with the Hornets converting on all six of their free throws down the stretch.
"They hit their free throws and we weren't able to get back into the game," Darling said. "I'm proud of our kids' effort in the second half. I thought we had a lot more fire and we have to play 40 minutes like that especially against a team like Sac State."
Banks finished with a career-high 30 points and posted her fifth double-double of the season with 11 rebounds. Lusain finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while Frost notched 19 points. Coggins was the fourth Lumberjack in double-figures with 15.
NAU dominated the painted area with a 70-28 advantage but the Hornets owned a 48-point edge in three-pointers knocking down 18 for the game to just two for the Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks travel to Cedar City, Utah to take on Southern Utah on Monday with tipoff at 7 p.m. NAU defeated Southern Utah, 82-77, on Jan. 13 at home, erasing an 18-point halftime deficit.