NAU women fall to Weber State

OGDEN, Utah — Every Lumberjack rally was answered by the Weber State Wildcats, and the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team was unable to complete its second half comeback in a 66-53 loss on Thursday. Senior Erikka Banks led NAU with her sixth double-double of the season of 15 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat that dropped the Lumberjacks’ record to 6-8 and 2-2 in the conference.

"There are times in basketball, and in life, where you may take a step back but it will help propel you forward," said NAU head coach Sue Darling. "This is one of those times. This was a tough loss and we’re disappointed but it’s going to free us up to take some major steps forward. This whole season we’ve taken it one game at a time. Our focus is on Idaho State (on Saturday) and looking forward to bounce back."

Senior Raven Anderson and Banks converted on consecutive layups to put NAU in front, 8-5, five minutes into the game before Weber State used one of a few defining runs to change the tide of the game. Over the next three and a half minutes, the Wildcats leaped in front with a 14-0 run and maintained at least a seven-point cushion the rest of the half, taking a 24-16 halftime lead.

Both teams — two of the top four defensive squads in the conference by scoring defense — kept the opposing offenses in check during the first 20 minutes. NAU shot just 29.6 percent going into halftime but still were in the game due a defensive effort that kept Weber State at a field goal percentage of 32.3 percent.

A swift start to the second half by Weber State pushed its lead to a game-high 14 points three minutes in. NAU followed a three-point play by junior Mariah Willadsen and held the momentum, cutting the Weber State lead to five, 44-39, with 7:56 to play. But the Wildcats quickly answered with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, equalizing Willadsen’s three-point play on their way to building a 10-point lead once again.

NAU sliced the deficit to five with 4:15 remaining, and following a triple by sophomore Rene Coggins, the ‘Jacks got within four at 53-49 at the 2:56 mark. But just as the Wildcats had done all game, they responded with the next four points and down the stretch knocked down 13-of-14 free throws to keep the Lumberjacks from getting any closer.

Banks added a career-high three blocks and tied her season-high of five steals to her line. Willadsen finished with a season-high 14 points, her fifth straight double-digit scoring game, and six rebounds. Anderson was also in double-figures with 12 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore Brittani Lusain posted nine assists, eight rebounds and seven points.

Both teams shot upward of 40 percent after halftime with Weber State finishing the game at 38.6 percent from the floor. NAU wound up shooting 36.7 percent. The Wildcats held a slim 39-37 advantage on the glass, although the Lumberjacks did hold them six under their average of 18 offensive rebounds per game, which is sixth-best in the nation. The Lumberjacks totaled a season-best 12 steals with four players recording double-digit steals.

"We’re playing solid defense and tonight we did a good job on the offensive boards and keeping them off the offensive boards, and they are a very good offensive rebounding team," Darling said. "I was really proud that we had 18 assists on 22 made shots. We have to keep being aggressive on offense and get to the free throw line."

The ‘Jacks wrap up the week in Pocatello, Idaho, Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against Idaho State.