NAU women fall to Idaho State in dramatic fashion

POCATELLO, Idaho — The Northern Arizona women’s basketball team led for 38 minutes and 44 seconds but had the game stolen from them in the final seconds by Idaho State 69-68, to fall to 6-10 overall and 2-3 in conference play.

After the Bengals scored the eventual game-winning basket with 3.6 seconds left on the clock, the Lumberjacks were a split second late with their last heave as junior Monique Mulder’s shot was waved off after the buzzer.

"Our team played their hearts out and I was proud of their effort and energy," NAU coach Sue Darling said. "This loss puts a chip on our shoulder and makes us even hungrier. We’re upset about the loss, but that sets up for fun practices next week and a couple of fun games at home coming up."

The Lumberjacks had the game’s two leading scorers in senior Erikka Banks and sophomore Brittani Lusain who finished with 22 and 21 points respectively. For Lusain, she set a new season-high in scoring as well as a career-high in field goals made with 10.

The teams exchanged a pair of buckets to start the game before Banks’ layup with 17:56 put NAU in front and started a 6-0 run in which it would lead 10-4 three minutes into the game. Lusain had the hot hand in the first half, going for 13 first half points as the ‘Jacks stayed in front for the remainder of the half leading by as much as 10.

NAU had its offense clicking converting on a 53.1 percent clip in the first 20 minutes in taking a 36-30 lead into halftime.

The Lumberjacks continued to maintain a steady lead to open the second half and reached their biggest lead of the game, 47-36, following a steal and fastbreak layup from Lusain with 15:12 to play. Banks began to impose her will on the Bengal defense in helping the Lumberjacks maintain their advantage by repeatedly going to the free throw line where she made a living shooting 11-of-12 in the second half.

A pair of Banks’ freebies had NAU in front, 62-52, with 9:36 remaining before the team went scoreless for nearly six minutes before a Lusain jumper stopped ISU’s 9-0 run which allowed the home team to claw within one. During the run, NAU lost both Banks and senior Raven Anderson due to reaching the five foul limit, which would force the ‘Jacks to turn to their underclassmen down the stretch run.

Back to back scores by Lusain and sophomore Bradlee Cotton gave NAU a three-point lead, 68-65, with 1:51 left before Idaho State brought the score back to one a minute later. Following an NAU miss, the Bengals’ Grace Kenyon knocked down a jumper in the paint with 3.6 seconds to bring the Reed Gym crowd to their feet.

That set the stage for NAU’s last effort having to drive the length of the floor. After the inbound, Lusain got the ball to Mulder, who banked in her shot as the clock expired. The initial ruling that Mulder’s shot coming after the buzzer would eventually be confirmed after a replay, leaving the Lumberjacks with the one-point defeat.

Before fouling out, Banks finished the game with her fourth 20-point scoring effort of the game to go along with a game-high four steals. Lusain snapped her six-game streak under 10 points with a breakout game from the floor.

NAU shot 48.2 percent, better than Idaho State’s 43.9 percent clip, but was outrebounded 37-33.