PORTLAND, Ore. – Senior Rene Coggins' game-winning shot as the buzzer expired spun out, and that summed up the Northern Arizona women's basketball team's day on Monday. NAU shot just 29.4 percent in the second half and saw its seven-point halftime lead disappear, as Portland State edged out the 'Jacks, 56-55, in the Peter W. Stott Center.
The Lumberjacks dropped their fourth consecutive game by a combined margin of 12 points, and fell to 1-4 in the Big Sky and 5-11 overall.
"The team's mentality is still pretty positive," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "Losing close games sometimes can be harder than being blown out because you know you're within just one or two possessions of a different result. My message to the team is to stick to what we're doing and value each possession. From top to bottom, the Big Sky is so close this year, and almost every game is close. We're right there in every game and that should give us confidence."
NAU suffered through its lowest scoring fourth quarter of the season, making just two of its 16 attempts from the field in the final 10 minutes. The Lumberjacks scored just nine points in the period, but still had a shot to win the game in the final seconds. Sophomore Kaleigh Paplow converted 1-of-2 from the line to break a 54-54 tie with 2:35 remaining, but the Vikings answered with the eventual game-winning basket a minute later.
NAU had the ball with 30 seconds remaining following missed shots by both teams, but was forced to call a timeout with seven seconds remaining after failing to get a clean look in the half court. Following the timeout, the 'Jacks found Coggins on the wing but could not find the game-winner.
The Lumberjacks used a 7-0 run in the final minute of the second quarter to take a 28-21 lead into the locker room. Coggins spurred the flurry with a three and a layup before senior Brittani Lusain closed the half with a basket. The run capped an offensive-challenged first half by both teams in which there were 21 combined field goals made compared to 23 turnovers by the two teams.
Portland State was hampered by 15 first half turnovers which led to 12 NAU points before the break. However, the Vikings cleaned up their offense in the second half committing just three turnovers after halftime. Coupled with 56 percent shooting, Portland State erased the NAU deficit despite the 'Jacks also cutting their turnovers from eight in the first half to three.
Still, eight second half points by senior Bradlee Cotton – who would go on to score 10 in the game – helped keep NAU in front for the majority of the second half despite the Lumberjacks' shooting woes. Senior Catelyn Preston's lone basket of the game gave NAU a 46-44 lead after three quarters, but a tough offensive fourth quarter was the Lumberjacks' demise.
NAU finished the game at just a 32.8 percent while Portland State recovered well from a poor first quarter to shoot a healthy 46.9 percent. Facing the Vikings' 2-3 zone, the Lumberjacks also only mustered up three three-pointers on a 13.6 clip, both of which are season-worsts.
"We had some good looks from three and we tried to run some different actions to open our shooters up and to get the ball inside," Bostick said. "We could've gotten the ball inside more. In the first half, we got the ball to the high post which opened up our cutters for some easy baskets, and in the second half we got away from that."
Coggins and Cotton were the only two Lumberjacks in double-figures, and Cotton was the only Lumberjack to shoot above 50 percent for the game. Between a plus-seven margin in turnovers and a plus-10 margin in offensive rebounds, the Lumberjacks managed to put up 18 more shots than the Vikings. However, NAU could only turn 16 offensive boards into seven second chance points. The total rebounding battle was even at 38-38 with Lusain and Cotton each recording six boards apiece.
NAU faces a short turnaround this week due to the rescheduled game it played on Monday, but does return home to the Walkup Skydome Thursday versus Eastern Washington at 6:30 p.m.
NAU's Alumni Weekend will start Friday and continue into Saturday with an alumni game in the morning followed by the Lumberjacks' game versus Idaho at 6:30 p.m. All alumni are encouraged to attend and RSVP to assistant coach Jamie Rauchwarger.