NAU women outgun Weber State with balanced effort

OGDEN, Utah — A season-best six players scored in double figures, led by 21 points each from senior Amanda Frost and freshman Brittani Lusain, as the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team utilized a total team effort to defeat Weber State 96-87 on Thursday night.

The Lumberjacks’ 96 points marked a new season high.

"I’m struggling with our defense still, but I have no qualms about our offense," said NAU coach Sue Darling. "It’s a really nice win, but we want to win more games. It’s going to take focus and energy and great defensive effort night in and night out, and we got the job done tonight."

The Lumberjacks built a 20-point second half lead and withstood a rally by the Wildcats to snap their two-game losing streak. They improved to 6-12 overall and 3-6 in conference play with the victory, in large part due to the play of their freshmen.

It was a back-and-forth affair early, but Weber State opened up its largest lead of the game at 32-24 with 7:21 remaining before the half. But a three-point play by freshman Priscilla Brooks started a 12-0 run that put NAU ahead. The run was crucial not only because it put the Lumberjacks in front but also because it came with Frost on the bench after the Big Sky’s leading scorer picked up her third foul of the game.

Weber State momentarily snuck back in front 42-41, but a layup by junior Raven Anderson and a free throw by freshman Taylor Leyva sent NAU into halftime with a 44-42 edge despite Frost playing just eight minutes due to foul trouble. With the team struggling to find consistency in the first half, it was the team’s freshmen who kept the team afloat, as they combined for 33 of the team’s first-half points.

"We were bleeding in the first half, and it was the freshmen that came in and stopped the bleeding," Darling said. "The freshmen stepped up, and that was huge to see."

Frost would not be held down for long as she exploded early and often in the second half after being held to just four points in eight first half minutes. Behind a number of steals, NAU was able to get the ball out in transition as Frost contributed 13 points during a 20-3 Lumberjack spree that turned a two-point game into a 70-51 advantage with 11 minutes left in the game. After junior Erikka Banks knocked down two free throws, the Lumberjacks led by 20, 74-54, with 9:44 remaining before the Wildcats charged back.

Frost eventually fouled out with 7:23 left, at which point Weber State was within 10, and the Wildcats would claw within six with 1:36 left. Lusain took over the final two minutes, though, as she scored nine of her career-high 21 points while going 6 for 6 from the free-throw line to put the game away.

Frost scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half and notched her 13th 20-point game of the season in just 19 minutes. Banks finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Anderson also had 11 points in addition to five rebounds and a career-best four blocks.

But it was the NAU freshmen who were the story of the game. Lusain was a perfect 9 of 9 from the line and added seven rebounds and six assists to her career-high scoring performance. Rene Coggins had 11 points, was a perfect 3 for 3 from long distance and recorded career highs of five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Avonna Lee knocked down three triples herself en route to her first double-digit scoring game with 11 points, and Brooks chipped in nine points and five rebounds.

"Amanda is our senior, and she is going to carry our team, but when it comes to next year when she’s not here, we’re going to need a new leader," Lee said. "I had to do what I can to help the team out, and we all stepped up."

NAU shot 56.9 percent for the game, 50 percent from 3-point range and 78.9 percent from the free-throw line while equaling a season low with just 13 turnovers.