Russell scores 25 as NAU tops Sacramento St.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.  — Freshman guard DeWayne Russell tied his career-high with 25 points and the Lumberjacks posted a solid defensive effort that forced 20 turnovers to defeat Sacramento State 57-50 at the Walkup Skydome on Thursday night.

NAU improved to 5-8 on the season, including a 2-1 mark in Big Sky play. The Hornets dropped to 6-5, 1-2 in Big Sky play.

The Lumberjacks held the Hornets to 34 percent from the field. Sacramento State had four players averaging 10 or more points entering the game, and the NAU defense held each below their season scoring average. Mikh McKinney (13.3 ppg) scored just nine points and sophomore guard Dylan Garrity (13.0) was held to six points. John Dickson was leading the league in scoring at 15.8 points and was held to 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

“With DeWayne Russell playing head-to-head with Dylan Garrity, I thought he did a really good job of containing one of the better point guards in the league,” said NAU head coach Jack Murphy.

Senior guard Michael Dunn and Russell each had four steals in the game.

The Lumberjacks took a 14-13 on a 3-pointer by Russell and never relinquished the lead the rest of the game despite leading by single digits over the final 31 minutes.

“Mike (Dunn) changed the entire complexion of the game when he came in during the first half,” said Murphy. “There was a lot of scoring back and forth and we were relying on the three too much. Mike came in the game and gave us a defensive edge on that end of the floor.”

NAU led by as many as six in the first half and took a five-point lead into the locker room behind 14 first-half points by Russell.

After not shooting a free throw in the first half, the Lumberjacks got to the line 20 times in the second half, led by Russell’s 12 attempts. It was needed, as the team managed just six second-half baskets and went 0 for 7 beyond the arc. NAU hit 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to seal the game.

“DeWayne Russell getting to the foul line in the second half was huge and knocking down the free throws was even bigger,” said Murphy. “We struggled shooting the ball once again, but we had a lot of open looks at the rim.”

Russell went 11 for 12 from the line, made four 3-point shots and came up with five assists and four steals. Senior guard Gabe Rogers added 11 points. Junior Max Jacobsen finished with seven points and six boards, while sophomore Gaellan Bewernick had a team-best seven rebounds.

Murphy was impressed with the overall defensive effort in the win.

“To win the game shooting 32 percent from the field and 27 percent from three, it shows how far our defense has come and how our attacking nature on offense is continuous,” he said.

Southern Utah visits for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday, Jan. 5. The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona.

The Lumberjacks will host a free pre-game clinic for youth in sixth grade and under starting with a 10:45 a.m. check-in and the clinic at noon. The clinic is limited to the first 150 youth. Pre-registration is required by emailing rocky.silvestri@nau.edu with the child’s name, age, and emergency contact name and phone number.