FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team chopped their 16-point deficit to one, but their furious rally in front of a lively crowd of 1,440 kids ultimately fell short in an 83-79 loss to CSUN. The largest attendance in the four-year Field Trip Day event helped fuel NAU's comeback efforts until the final horn, but the 'Jacks dropped their season debut in the Walkup Skydome.
"We dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first quarter and we couldn't come back from it," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "They were knocking down the threes and we knew they would cool down a little. I liked our energy in the second quarter and we had the momentum going into halftime, but we gave up some offensive rebounds in the third quarter and that hurt us. I liked our team's fight today though and they didn't give up, but it came down to the little things."
The Lumberjacks (3-4) had their second-largest scoring output of the season outdone by the Matadors' hot shooting in the first and fourth quarters. CSUN shot 48.3 percent for the game and 45.7 percent from behind the arc, and to start and finish the morning it was a combined 19-for-28 (67.9 percent). Included in CSUN's white-hot shooting in the first and fourth quarters was 6-for-10 on three-pointers.
NAU did not have a bad showing offensively as it shot 42.4 percent itself and 36 percent from three, but four players in double-figures could not offset CSUN's team performance. Senior Rene Coggins hit three of the Lumberjacks' nine three-pointers and scored a team-high 20 points. She also registered season-highs of six rebounds and five assists.
CSUN was unfazed by the hyped up crowd of local schoolchildren in attendance and led 25-14 after one quarter of play, finishing the final four and a half minutes on a 13-4 run. Its lead grew to a game-high 16 points, 38-22, with 2:24 left in the first half before the NAU rally began. The Lumberjacks closed the half on a 9-2 run with senior Brittani Lusain's buzzer-beating putback off a Coggins miss pulling NAU within 40-31 at halftime.
The final 20 minutes was filled with moments of punch and counterpunch action with CSUN never allowing NAU to climb ahead. After a three by redshirt junior Kenna McDavis and a layup by Lusain closed the gap to 46-42, the Matadors pushed their lead back out to 51-44. NAU twice then got within two following three-pointers by freshman Raina Perez and Coggins, but on both occasions the Matadors immediately answered with a three themselves.
Trailing by five after three quarters and nine with nine minutes to play, the 'Jacks dug deep and received buckets by senior Bradlee Cotton and sophomore Kaleigh Paplow to get as close as 63-62 with under six minutes remaining. Coggins drove to the rim for a layup to keep NAU within a single possession at 65-64 with 5:02 left, but CSUN came back with two dagger three-pointers in the next minutes. The Lumberjacks were unable to pull within a single possession the rest of the way as the Matadors kept their distance by making 6-of-8 from the free throw line in the final minute.
Lusain finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and a season-high six assists. Senior Bradlee Cotton set a new career-high for the second straight game, scoring 11 points on a perfect 5-for-5 performance and redshirt junior Olivia Lucero added 10 points.
NAU held the narrow advantage on the glass, 35-33, and once again kept its turnover count low at 10, but were edged out on the final scoreboard despite outscoring CSUN in each of the last three quarters.
Next up for the 'Jacks is Denver in the Walkup Skydome on Saturday at 11 a.m. The game will precede the NAU men's basketball game versus San Diego at 2 p.m. Fans can purchase a general admission $8 ticket which will be valid for both games.