FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Northern Arizona women’s basketball team routed Portland State 84-61 on Thursday thanks to a complete effort on both ends of the court. In front of a boisterous and energetic crowd on Field Trip Day, the Lumberjacks jumped on the Vikings early and used one of their strong defensive efforts of the season to improve to 7-14 ovreall and 4-9 in Big Sky play.
"We’ve been working a lot on our defense, and I thought we played very good defense today," said NAU coach Sue Darling. "Defense is a little bit about technique, but the rest of it is energy, effort and teamwork. We put that all together today. I couldn’t be more proud of our team, and it paid off today."
The game mirrored the teams’ previous meeting in Portland a month ago, a game in which the Lumberjacks took a sizeable lead into the half en route to a 88-67 victory. In this one, NAU raced out to a 24-8 lead just seven minutes into the game behind six 3-pointers. Senior Amanda Frost, the Big Sky’s leading scorer, came out of the gates scorching, connecting on half of the team’s six treys in the opening spurt, this just three days after an 11-point performance in NAU’s loss at Southern Utah on Monday.
Utilizing an aggressive defensive, the Lumberjacks pressured the Vikings throughout the first half, forcing 10 turnovers that were turned into 13 points. After back-to-back layups by junior Raven Anderson to close out the half, NAU headed into halftime with a commanding 44-19 advantage.
NAU shot 56.7 percent in the first half and made seven 3-pointers while holding Portland State to just 28.6 percent shooting from the field. The 19 points were the fewest allowed by the Lumberjacks in a half this season. Frost led the way offensively with 18 first-half points.
NAU pulled away early in the second half, as a 9-0 run capped by a three-point play from Frost gave the Lumberjacks their largest lead of the game at 67-32 with 12 minutes remaining. Five players scored at least six points in the final 20 minutes for NAU, which maintained a 30-point advantage throughout the majority of the second half until the Vikings closed the game with 12 straight points.
Portland State managed just 19 made baskets, the fewest of any NAU opponent this season, and its 61 points were the second fewest allowed by the Lumberjacks this season. With a season-best home crowd of 753, the energy in the Skydome was palpable, and the Lumberjacks benefited.
"Our athletic department scrambled to put together this Field Trip Day, and to have all those kids in the stands was really neat," Darling said. "It really helped us not only get energy but maintain it throughout the game. I give them the double thumbs-up for the sixth man award."
The Lumberjacks had six players score in double figures for the second time this season, led by Frost with 28 points. Frost connected on four 3-pointers and added four rebounds, two assists and four steals. Anderson was efficient in the paint, adding 12 points, and Coggins equaled Frost’s 3-point output for 12 points of her own. Junior Erikka Banks made all five of her attempts from the field for 11 points, freshman Brittani Lusain matched that with 11 more and freshman Catelyn Preston rounded out NAU’s double-digit scorers with 10 points.
NAU shot 52.7 percent for the game while Portland State shot just 38 percent. The Lumberjacks also shot 50 percent from 3-point range and outrebounded the Vikings 35-24. Anderson and Lusain each grabbed a team-best six boards while Banks pulled down five rebounds.
With just seven games remaining in the season for the Lumberjacks to climb into the top seven in the standings to earn a Big Sky tournament berth, Thursday’s victory was crucial.
"Playing as good as we did today, we know what we’re capable of," Frost said. "We have to take into (Saturday) and know that we can win any game."