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Women's Hoops Suffers 88-69 Defeat to North Dakota

Taylor Leyva
Taylor Leyva

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – First half missed opportunities hampered the Northern Arizona women's basketball team's chances of pulling off a victory on Saturday as the 'Jacks fell to North Dakota, 88-69, Saturday afternoon. The Fighting Hawks missed just eight shots in the second half and shot 73.3 percent to turn a six-point game at halftime into a rout, sending the Lumberjacks to their third straight loss.

"We started off the game strong with a couple of baskets and we saw we could get to the basket or get fouled to get to the free throw line," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "Unfortunately we weren't able to convert on our free throws going 15-for-24 for the game, so we couldn't really take advantages of those opportunities. We also limited our turnovers in the first half, but weren't able to get baskets with those extra possessions."

Redshirt junior Olivia Lucero got the Lumberjacks rolling with five early points during a game-opening 9-2 run. However, the Fighting Hawks closed the quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 18-13 lead at the end of the period.

Despite 17 first half fouls and 12 turnovers, North Dakota managed to take a 29-23 lead into halftime due to NAU's inability to capitalize on the UND's miscues. NAU made just 4-of-10 at the free throw line in addition to making just four of its final 23 shots of the first half after starting out 5-for-10. Still, in large part to senior Bradlee Cotton's eight points and only committing four turnovers, NAU found itself in the ball game heading into the second half.

The second half started out less than ideally as the 'Jacks nearly matched total with three turnovers before sophomore Kaleigh Paplow got NAU on the board. Facing a double-digit for the first time, Paplow scored seven of her nine points in the first five minutes of the second half to keep the Lumberjacks within striking distance. Senior Rene Coggins' three-pointer made it a five-point game, 42-37, with 4:41 remaining in the third quarter.

North Dakota then scored the next 13 points without a miss from the field or the line over the next three minutes to put the game out of reach. UND made 13-of-17 shots in the game-changing third quarter and put up 32 points – the most points in a quarter by an NAU opponent this season – to extend its lead to 61-41 by the end of the period.

Despite efforts from Coggins and senior Taylor Leyva – who combined for 15 points in the fourth quarter – the damage had been done as the 'Jacks got no closer than 15 points in the final stanza.

"We didn't communicate the way we needed to in the third quarter," Bostick said. "We got stuck on some of their screens and they were able to knock down open shots. In the fourth quarter, we continued to play hard but we weren't able to chip away. We weren't able to string together possessions in order to make a run."

Coggins scored a team-high 18 points in her highest scoring game in nearly two months, while Lucero finished with 15. Leyva came off the bench to narrowly miss a double-double with season-highs of 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Fighting Hawks finished the game at 58.6 percent from the field compared to just 31.5 percent shooting from NAU. NAU also shot just 62.5 percent from the charity stripe after entering the game with a Big Sky-best 82 percent in league games.

Although NAU was outrebounded 42-37 for the game, the Lumberjacks did grab 23 offensive rebounds, which led to 19 second chance points.

The Lumberjacks, now 6-14 overall with a 2-7 Big Sky record, look to right the ship at home in the Skydome next Thursday and Saturday versus Idaho State and Weber State respectively. Both games are slated for 6:30 p.m. starts.