NAU blows 22-point lead in loss to N. Dakota

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – North Dakota overcame a 22-point first half deficit and got a putback in the final seconds by Troy Huff to pull out a stunning 81-79 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday.

Huff scored 26 points in the game and got the winner off a missed shot by Lenny Antwi with three seconds left to send the Walkup Skydome crowd home disappointed. NAU beat Northern Colorado on Thursday on a similar buzzer beater.

North Dakota (8-12, 5-5 Big Sky) trailed by as many as 22 in the first
half and was down 47-36 at halftime but went on a 32-10 run to start the second half, with Jamal Webb’s jumper giving UND a 68-57 lead with 11:03 remaining.

The
Lumberjacks would respond, going on a 22-11 run to tie it at 79
with 47 seconds left on DeWayne Russell’s made free throw, but came up just short when Russell missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer following Huff’s basket at the other end.

Gabe Rogers scored a career-high 35 points to lead Northern Arizona (7-12, 4-6).

The Lumberjacks couldn’t miss early, hitting 15 of their first 20 shots from the field to take a 34-12 lead at the 8:13 mark of the game. But North Dakota answered with a 24-13 run to cut the NAU lead to 11 at the half.

“We jumped out and played as well as we had all year for 12 minutes, and we thought the game was over,” said NAU coach Jack Murphy. “If games were 12 minutes long, we would have a better record. Games are 40 minutes long, and we have to learn how to play for 40 minutes. We did not do that today.”

North Dakota continued that run to open the second half, hitting 13 of its first 14 shots. UND took its first lead of the game at 52-51 barely five minutes into the second half, eventually extending the lead to 11.

“North Dakota came out and we probably thought they were going to lay down,” said Murphy. “They were not going to.”

NAU didn’t lay down either, as Gabe Rogers scored nine points during a 14-3 run that tied the score at 74 with 4:38 left.

DeWayne Russell tied the score again at 79 with a free throw with under a minute to play. Senior guard Stallon Saldivar, who finished with seven assists and five rebounds, grabbed the rebound after Russell missed on his second attempt, giving NAU a chance to take the lead, but Rogers’ jump shot was off the mark with 19 seconds left.

“We stopped playing,” said Rogers, whose 35 points ranked 10th in NAU single-game history. “It is embarrassing that we blew a 22-point lead like that. We had a great crowd and I really thank the crowd for coming out and being there for us. I am sorry that we did not get this win. We have to learn from this. The best thing we can do is learn from this loss.”

Added Murphy: “When you lose home games like we have, you put yourself in a hole. The only way to get out of it is to go on the road and win. We have a tough stretch ahead. Nobody is going to make excuses or feel sorry for us. We just have to go win.”

The Lumberjacks play six of their final 10 conference games on the road to finish the regular season.