NAU Bows Out of Tourney With 88-76 Loss to Portland State

Raina Perez
Raina Perez

RENO, Nev. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team put up a fight, but Portland State overwhelmed the 'Jacks inside the paint in an 88-76 loss in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament. The Lumberjacks were outscored 36-14 in the paint, while the Vikings shot 58.2 percent overall for the game. NAU concludes the season with a 9-21 overall record, upping its win total by three victories from a year ago.

"With their size, it was tough to attack the paint," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "It makes it hard to get the ball inside. I'm very proud of what the team accomplished this year with the adversity we had all year with not just the coaching change, but injuries as well. The two players to my right, Rene (Coggins) as a captain and Raina (Perez) as a freshman, really stepped up. I couldn't be more proud."

Freshman Raina Perez closed her debut season with a team-high 21 points – her second 20-point game in her last three and her eighth straight double-digit scoring game. She also had three assists and knocked down a set of three-pointers to 49, which is the second-most by an NAU freshman in a single season.

Three of NAU's six seniors joined Perez in double-figures in their final games in the Lumberjack Blue & Gold. Brittani Lusain came off the bench to score 18 points, including a season-best 8-for-10 showing at the charity stripe, while Catelyn Preston scored 13 points and tied for team-high honors with six boards. Rene Coggins made four three-pointers for her 12 points to round out NAU's four double-digit scorers. A fourth senior, Taylor Leyva, matched Preston's six rebounds.

The Lumberjacks, who previously fell to the Vikings by one point twice during the regular season, did not have a lot of issues putting the ball in the basket against Portland State's 2-3 zone. Compared to its 34 percent overall field goal percentage and 27 percent three-point shooting in the first two meetings, NAU shot 41.7 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three Monday night.

However, NAU's defense struggled to find an answer for Portland State's dribble drive and dish offense as the Vikings torched the Lumberjacks around the rim, totaling 20 assists on their 32 made field goals.

Five straight points by Preston provided the Lumberjacks with their biggest lead of the game, 9-4 at the 5:34 mark in the first quarter, but a 12-2 run by the Vikings put them in front before a Perez jumper ended the opening period in a 17-17 stalemate.

Portland State opened the second quarter with a 10-2 run over the first two minutes, only for the pendulum to swing back in NAU's favor. Coggins knocked down back-to-back threes to put the Lumberjacks back on top, 30-29, with 4:45 left before half. The 'Jacks led 34-32 with two minutes remaining until the Vikings connected on a pair of threes to take a 38-34 lead into the break.

The two teams traded shots through the first six minutes of the second half, and a pair of free throws by sophomore Kaleigh Paplow brought NAU within two at 52-50 with three and a half minutes to play in the third quarter. However, the Lumberjacks failed to get any closer the rest of the way as the Vikings put the 'Jacks in their rear view mirror with a quarter-ending 11-2 run.

Still, NAU failed to lay down as Coggins and Lusain made consecutive threes – two of five by the Lumberjacks in the final quarter – to cut the Portland State lead to 72-64 with five minutes to go. The Vikings immediately pushed their advantage back out to a dozen with two straight baskets and despite NAU's highest scoring quarter of the game, the Lumberjacks could not significantly cut into their deficit.

While NAU shot 48.3 percent in the second half and made seven of its 13 three-point attempts, Portland State was white-hot shooting 66.7 percent after halftime. The Vikings missed just nine shots in the final 20 minutes to maintain their lead the entire second half.

Aside from dominating the paint, Portland State also outscored NAU by six in points off turnovers and outrebounded the Lumberjacks slightly, 32-30. The Lumberjacks did grab 11 offensive boards, led by three each from Leyva and Lusain, to hold a 14-9 edge in second chance points.