NAU women rout Portland State

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — It was a day of season-bests in the Walkup Skydome for the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team as it completed the first weekend of conference play with a decisive 94-46 victory over Portland State.

The win marked NAU’s first 2-0 start in Big Sky play in nearly a decade dating back to the 2005-06 season and just the third time in school history. The Lumberjacks are now 6-7 overall.

The 94 points is a season-best total for the ‘Jacks in addition to setting new high marks in points in a half (53 in the first half), field goal percentage (53.6 percent), three-point makes (11) and three-point percentage (64.7 percent). Meanwhile defensively, the Lumberjacks held their opponent under 50 points for the fourth time this season and controlled the glass to a 49-22 advantage for a season-best plus-27 margin. The 22 rebounds were also a season-low for an opponent.

"We’ve been talking about having great energy and effort for 40 minutes and we want to be known as a team that plays all-out for 40 minutes," said head coach Sue Darling. "I was really proud of the way we came out not only on the offensive end but also on the defensive end. Our team has been putting a lot of time in getting shots up and today we saw the result of that. We’re happy with the 2-0 start but we’re not satisfied."

NAU entered the game averaging just 61 points per game and shooting 21.9 percent behind the arc, but Saturday was going to be a different story right from the opening tip. Junior Monique Mulder hit her first two of a career-high five three-pointers to start the game and junior Mariah Willadsen connected on another as the Lumberjacks quickly forced a Viking timeout two and a half minutes into the game after racing out to an 11-3 lead.

The offensive outburst would continue as NAU’s lead extended to 20-3 and the home team was just getting started. Mulder continued to hit from outside and was joined by freshman Tori Lloyd, who contributed three triples in the first half off the bench, as NAU’s lead grew to as much as 31 points with seven minutes to play before halftime. Meanwhile, as the Lumberjacks were hitting from the outside, 8-of-10 from three-point distance, NAU was controlling the paint led by senior Raven Anderson who at halftime already had her third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

"The team really rubbed off on me and we’re ready to win in conference," Lloyd said. "Everyone has to come out ready to play their part. Today I was hitting shots, but some days I may not and other people will. It was very exciting today and we’re a family. When one person succeeds, we are all very encouraged and inspired by it."

By halftime, NAU held a 53-26 lead shooting 57.1 percent from the floor. Led by Anderson’s efforts, the Lumberjacks outrebounded the Vikings, 27-4, in the first half and turned their 12 offensive rebounds into 16 second chance points.

Portland State opened the second half by scoring eight of the first 12 points, but NAU quickly answered with eight straight points to push its lead back out to 65-34. Midway through the second half, the Lumberjacks went on a 22-1 run over a seven-minute stretch capped by junior Madi Austin’s first three-pointer of the season to hold their biggest lead of 50 points at 87-37 with 5:39 remaining. Seven different players scored during the run and NAU was on cruise control the rest of the game.

Five different players, also a season-best, scored in double-figures in the game led by senior Erikka Banks and Mulder – who reset her career-high – with 16 points each. Lloyd, who came into the game scoreless in her last five games, and Willadsen, who posted her third straight double-digit scoring game, each finished with 13 along with Anderson’s 10. Sophomore Bradlee Cotton also recorded a career-high eight points as did sophomore Brittani Lusain in a game in which 10 of 12 Lumberjacks scored.

"Everyone on this team can score and contribute, so if Coach puts someone in we can count on them doing something whether its shoot the ball or rebound," Willadsen said. "We were hungry for a win (coming into the week) after losing four in a row and we came out this weekend and played really well. We just have to stay hungry and fight every game."

Every player on the team recorded a point, a rebound or an assist in a team effort on both ends of the court. NAU limited Portland State to just 31.5 percent from the floor and also committed a season-low 10 turnovers while tallying 20 assists led by Lusain’s eight. Banks posted a team-high four steals.