Women's Hoops Uses the Three-Ball to Drain Denver, 82-67

Olivia Lucero
Olivia Lucero

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team shot the Walkup Skydome lights out and led wire-to-wire to pick up an 82-67 victory over Denver Saturday morning. Behind senior Rene Coggins' five three-pointers, NAU made a season-high 12 long balls and shot a season-best 51.6 percent overall in evening its record to 4-4 this season. The 12 threes were one shy of the single game school record.

Senior Bradlee Cotton put in buckets on each of NAU's first two possessions and initiated an 11-2 game-opening run for the 'Jacks that set the tone of the game. The Lumberjacks made nine of their 16 attempts in the opening 10 minutes and led 20-11 after one quarter of play in an ideal start for NAU.

"In the games that we've lost this year, we haven't come out or started very well," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "We wanted to have a better start today, we wanted to be more aggressive coming out, and we were able to do that. We know taking care of the ball is important for us, especially starting off, so we really limited our turnovers in the first half."

Coggins and redshirt junior Olivia Lucero tied for team-high honors with 19 points each and the pair combined for 11 of NAU's first 20 points. In fact, Lucero scored six points in both the first and second quarters as she had a dozen going into the halftime, which NAU led 39-24.

After Denver cut its deficit to four, 22-18, a little over a minute into the second quarter, the Lumberjacks pushed their advantage out to a dozen points with a 10-2 run over the next five and a half minutes. During the run, five different players scored for NAU in a balanced effort. Redshirt junior Kenna McDavis knocked down a three and Lucero beat the second quarter buzzer with a layup as NAU closed the first half scoring 17 of the final 23 points.

The Lumberjacks' lead grew to as much as 19 late in the third quarter following three-pointers by freshman Raina Perez – who scored 10 points off the bench – and Coggins. NAU led 54-35 with 1:37 remaining in the period and took a 13-point lead into the final quarter.

NAU closed the game by shooting 64.3 percent in the fourth quarter and made five of its 12 three-pointers in the game and were never threatened by Denver. The Pioneers could only get as close as 11 in the final 10 minutes and prevented the Lumberjacks by winning by a larger margin by draining four three-pointers themselves in the last quarter. The 'Jacks held a double-digit lead for the final 23:45 of the game overall.

Aside from a comfortable shooting performance, NAU kept control of the game by turning the ball over a season-low seven times. Add in 21 assists and the Lumberjacks' 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio was key in locking up a second win during a busy three-game week. Coggins, senior Brittani Lusain and sophomore Kaleigh Paplow all recorded four assists.

"What we were able to do today was great," Bostick said. "We were able to get to the basket, and when they collapsed and took that away, that opened up our three-point shooters. With our 21 assists, our team played very unselfishly. They weren't forcing shots and they were looking for their teammates."

Lucero and Coggins both reached double-digit points for the fourth consecutive game. Lucero was 8-for-17 from the field and made two threes, while Coggins was 7-for-14 with 5-of-11 from behind the arc. In addition to Lucero and Coggins, McDavis and Perez both made multiple threes with senior Taylor Leyva accounting for one herself.

"I personally feel most comfortable driving to the basket," Lucero said. "If they were giving me a lane, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I think those drives to the basket helped the team and opened up some space on the outside for our shooters. A bunch of my teammates started knocking down threes and it was pretty awesome."

Lusain led the 'Jacks with team-highs of 10 rebounds and three steals. McDavis and Paplow both finished with eight points apiece, narrowly missing NAU having five players in double-figures.

The Lumberjacks will have more than a week off before closing out their four-game homestand on Sunday, Dec. 11 with New Mexico State. The game will move into the Rolle Activity Center due to preparation for the university's commencement ceremonies. Tip-off will be 12 p.m.