Comeback comes up short for NAU women

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Northern Arizona women’s basketball team mounted a second-half rally that sliced an 18-point halftime deficit to four, but Sacramento State held on for a 99-91 victory Thursday night.

The Lumberjacks (6-14 overall, 3-8 Big Sky) shot 51.4 percent from the field and outrebounded the Hornets by a 47-40 margin, but a subpar first half and costly missed layups ultimately proved too much to overcome.

"We tried to limit their possessions by controlling the ball offensively and playing good defense, but we gave up 99 points, so our defense hindered us again tonight," said NAU coach Sue Darling. "We shot 51 percent and 79 percent from the line and we got layup after layup. Unfortunately, we missed too many wide-open layups at the end of the day."

Sacramento State, the second-highest-scoring team in the nation, bombed away from long distance early and often. The Hornets lead the country in 3-pointers made per game and hit five in the first five minutes to race out to a 15-8 lead. NAU tried to hang around by maintaining possession late in the shot clock, but the visitors gunned their way to a 51-33 lead at halftime by knocking down 12 triples in the first 20 minutes. The Lumberjacks also turned the ball over 13 times, which led to a 20-2 Hornets advantage in points off turnovers.

The second half was a different story, as the Lumberjacks shot 54.5 percent in the final 20 minutes and got repeated looks at the rim in transition as they chased their second come-from-behind victory from down 18 points this season. NAU slowly crept its way back in the game, as it trailed by 14 four minutes in and by 11 at the 13:31 mark. The deficit grew back to 19 halfway through the half before an 11-2 run capped off by a Rene Coggins layup brought the Lumberjacks within 10 with 7:28 to play for the first time since eight minutes remained in the first half.

Consecutive triples by senior Amanda Frost and Coggins got NAU within six, and a layup from Brittani Lusain closed the gap to 89-85 with 3:53 left. The Lumberjacks got to within 93-89 following two Erikka Banks free throws with 47 seconds left, but that would be as close as they got , as the Hornets converted on all six of their free throws down the stretch.

"They hit their free throws and we weren’t able to get back into the game," Darling said. "I’m proud of our kids’ effort in the second half. I thought we had a lot more fire, and we have to play 40 minutes like that, especially against a team like Sac State."

Banks finished with a career-high 30 points and posted her fifth double-double of the season with 11 rebounds. Lusain finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and Frost notched 19 points. Coggins was the fourth Lumberjack in double figures with 15 points.

NAU dominated the paint with a 70-28 advantage there, but the Hornets owned a 48-point edge in 3-pointers, knocking down 18 for the game to just two for the Lumberjacks.