Montana too tough for NAU women

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Senior Erikka Banks scored 10 points as the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team was unable to fight back from an early deficit in a 69-42 loss to Montana on Thursday.

The loss dropped NAU’s record to 6-11 overall and 2-4 in the Big Sky.

"Tonight was a tough night and the last thing we want to do is dwell on it," NAU coach Sue Darling said. "We could’ve closed out on their shooters a little faster, but credit Montana because they shot well. We’ve got another tough team in Montana State coming in on Saturday, so it’s time to put this one behind us and move forward. We need a W, so we need to regroup, believe in ourselves and I know that we can."

NAU scored four of the first seven points to start the game, but a 6-0 Montana run put the ‘Jacks behind 9-4 a little more than six minutes into the game. The Gizzlies lead extended to double digits at the 7:59 mark of the first half and the visitors eventually took a 37-18 advantage into halftime after shooting 51.9 percent from the floor and 70 percent from three-point distance.

Sophomore Catelyn Preston gave the Lumberjacks a brief jolt to open the second half with a triple and a layup, but Montana quickly regrouped. NAU’s offense then stalled for nearly 10 minutes until a pair of free throws from senior Raven Anderson stopped a 16-0 Montana run with 7:26 remaining.

The Lumberjacks never stopped fighting though, ending the game with 12 of the final 16 points with Banks notching eight of her 10 during that stretch covering the final three and a half minutes.

Montana finished the game shooting 49.1 percent while holding NAU to a 25.4 percent clip from the field. The Gizzlies also held a 48-32 edge on the boards, but NAU only turned the ball over 12 times to Montana’s 17.

Banks was the only Lumberjack in double-figures and also recorded a team-high seven rebounds. Anderson finished with nine points off the bench, while sophomore Brittani Lusain totaled seven points and five rebounds.

"As a team we do a good job of bouncing back," Lusain said. "I know we’ll be able to bounce back on Saturday. We need to find our hunger to get our next win and we need to push forward and focus on having a great practice on Friday to get ready for the Bobcats."

NAU next hosts Montana State at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday on FOX Sports Arizona.