Erikka Banks leads NAU women to win in Big Sky opener

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. –€“ Erikka Banks piled up 22 points and 19 rebounds as the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team opened Big Sky play on New Year’s Day with a 64-60 victory over Sacramento State.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Hornets and was NAU’s first victory to open the conference season since the 2007-08 season. NAU also ended a four-game overall losing streak to improve to 5-7.

 "They are a high scoring team and we held them to 60 points and that’s the number I’m looking at," said head coach Sue Darling. "Even more important than that is that we’re 1-0 in Big Sky play. I was proud of our effort and we showed grit and determination. Our ability to bounce back from 32 turnovers, which is a big number, and not hang our hands and stick with what we’re doing got us the win."

 Sacramento State entered the game averaging 86.9 points per game, but NAU’s defense stepped up to the challenge holding the Hornets to season-low 60 points on a 27.8 percent showing from the field. NAU’s dominating advantage on the glass (51-39) helped negate a season-high 32 turnovers against the Hornets’ trapping defense.

 A 12-0 run helped the Hornets jump out to an early 22-11 lead, but NAU cut the margin to 30-23 at the half.

The Lumberjacks tied it at 36 with 15:19 to play, then fell eight points behind before rallying again to pull even at 52 with eight minutes to go.

Banks hit a pair of free throws with 1:20 left to snap a 60-60 deadlock, and Monique Mulder made a jumper with 19 seconds to play for the final margin.

Banks had five steals in addition to the 22 points and 19 rebounds, and Raven Anderson also had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Mulder had career-highs of 11 points and seven assists, and Mariah Willadsen added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

The Lumberjacks are home again on Saturday, hosting Portland State at 2 p.m.