NAU women outmuscle Montana State

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Northern Arizona women’s basketball team used a convincing second half run to snap their four-game losing streak on Saturday, handing Montana State a 79-64 defeat in the Walkup Skydome.

Seniors Erikka Banks and Raven Anderson were instrumental in the victory, combining for 43 points to help NAU improve to 3-4 in conference play and 7-11 overall. The win also broke a nine-game skid to the Bobcats dating back nearly five years.

"We had great fire, passion and energy and some grit and determination when we needed it," NAU coach Sue Darling said. "I couldn’t be more proud and happy for our seniors, Raven and Erikka. They’re carving the way for us and the whole team is rallying around them to make sure they have a great senior year. Everyone did their job and played their role and I’m proud of everyone. It was an exciting, well fought game."

Banks and Anderson were two of four Lumberjacks to score in double-figures as both reached the 20-point plateau. Banks picked up her seventh double-double of the season with game-highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds on a very efficient shooting night. She was 8-for-11 from the field, made both of her three-point attempts and knocked down 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. Anderson had an efficient performance herself, connecting on 7-of-10 from the floor and making six of her seven free throws. The pair helped NAU to a 34-16 advantage in points in the paint.

Banks set the tone early, firing on both of her shots from long distance on her way to eight points in the first four minutes as NAU raced out to a 10-5 lead. The Lumberjacks led by as much as seven, but the Bobcats battled back and took their first lead, 23-22, with 7:29 to play before the half.

Freshman Tori Lloyd’s second three-pointer of the half gave NAU a 36-29 lead with under two minutes left. However, Montana State finished the half with a flurry scoring the final seven points including a buzzer-beater to send the game into the break knotted up at 36-36.

Back-to-back buckets for the Bobcats temporarily gave MSU its biggest lead of the game, 49-44, five minutes into the second half until another triple by Lloyd tied the score at 49-all. Anderson then led the Lumberjacks’ big charge with an and-1 to put NAU in front for god at 52-51 with 12:11 remaining.

Anderson was just getting started as she was responsible for eight straight points during an 11-0 NAU run that gave the Lumberjacks a 60-51 lead they would not relinquish. By the time Banks made a pair from the line with 1:36 left, NAU had gone on a 28-6 run to hold a 20-point lead at 77-57 before closing out the victory.

"I haven’t been performing to my best lately and there was no better night than tonight to help my sisters get this win," Anderson said. "We fed off each and we all wanted this bad tonight. Montana State is a quality team and we came out as a collective group and got the W."

NAU shot a season-best 51.8 percent from the field as a team and was 50 percent from behind the arc and 76.2 percent from the free throw line. Along with Banks and Anderson, junior Mariah Willadsen and sophomore Brittani Lusain each posted double-digit scoring games with 11 and 10 points respectively. Lloyd recorded nine points off the bench hitting on all three of her three-point attempts.

The Lumberjacks kept Montana State in check during the second half with the visitors shooting only 32.4 percent after halftime. The Bobcats finished 36.9 percent for the game.

"We had a team meeting yesterday and it was a breakthrough moment for us," sophomore Catelyn Preston said. "We were all frustrated, but we all came together. Tonight you could see it on the bench and on the floor that we were together. That really made a difference in this game tonight and we have to keep moving forward."