Women's Hoops Drops Season Finale in Montana, 83-66
MISSOULA, Mont. – Senior Amanda Frost and freshman Brittani Lusain each scored 25 points and junior Raven Anderson ripped down a career-high 18 rebounds, but the Northern Arizona women's basketball team could not overcome a halftime deficit in an 83-66 season finale loss to Montana Saturday afternoon. The Lumberjacks finish the season 9-20 overall, a one-game improvement from last season, and 6-14 within the Big Sky Conference.
"I was proud of our effort and I thought we played really hard," said head coach Sue Darling. "Montana did a nice job disrupting our offense, but we played together. We made a few too many mistakes turning it over 21 times and they turned it over eight times. The team that made the fewest mistakes won the game."
The Lumberjacks played right with the Lady Griz through the first 10 minutes, trailing by two following a jump shot by Lusain. Over the next three minutes though, the Lumberjacks were outscored 12-1 as the Lady Griz pushed out to a 32-19 lead. NAU got right back into the game though with an 8-0 run started by a corner three-pointer by freshman Catelyn Preston, followed by an and-1 by Frost and two free throws by Lusain. After Montana extend its lead back out to 10, the Lumberjacks finished the half by scoring eight of the last 12 points highlighted by a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Lusain to head into halftime down just six at 43-37.
Although Montana led throughout the second half, it was never able to fully pull away as NAU kept itself within striking distance. When it seemed the Lady Griz was about to run with the lead, the Lumberjacks answered and trailed by just 10, 66-56, with seven minutes left in the game. Unable to string together enough defensive stops though, Montana's advantage on the scoreboard eventually reached 20 with 2:10 left.
Facing the Big Sky's second leading rebounding team, the Lumberjacks commanded the glass led by Anderson's monster effort, outrebounding the Lady Griz, 46-33, with 17 of their 46 rebounds coming on the offensive end. Anderson joined five other players in school history with 18 boards in a game, tying the 10th-highest total in school history and one shy of junior Erikka Banks' team-high of 19 this season.
Despite a dominating rebounding effort, NAU was outshot by a 44.8-41 percent margin from the field and was hurt by 21 turnovers which turned into a 19-10 edge for UM in points off turnovers. In the deciding first half, Montana shot 57.1 percent although NAU's defense limited them to just 35.9 percent in the final 20 minutes.
Lusain notched her fifth double-double of the season with a career-high tying 25 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and two blocks. She finished her first season with 138 assists, the seventh-best single-season total in program history.
Frost capped off her career with her Big Sky-leading 19th 20-point game in the final game of her outstanding career. Her 25 points pushed her season total to 652 points which is not only the NAU single-season record, but fifth-most in the history of the Big Sky. She ends her career with 1,079 points which puts her ninth all-time in school history.
"My strategy this weekend was to go all-out to get two wins but we came up short," Frost said. "I have learned so much in my time at NAU and this season I played with a whole bunch of freshmen. They're still learning and I just tried to lead them as best as I could."
"We played in front of 3,600 people and it's always neat to come to Montana to play because they do a great job with their program winning games and putting people in the stands," Darling said. "It was a really fun environment and it was great for our kids to experience that. I'm excited about our future."
The Lumberjacks will lose Frost, the Big Sky scoring champion, but will return the rest of their team next season led by seniors-to-be Anderson and Banks and a talented freshman class that gained valuable experience in their first season.