NAU women’s season ends with loss to Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. — Senior Amanda Frost and freshman Brittani Lusain each scored 25 points and junior Raven Anderson pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds, but the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team could not keep up with Montana on Saturday in an 83-66 loss in the season finale.

The Lumberjacks finished the season 9-20 overall, a one-game improvement from last season, and 6-14 within the Big Sky.

"I was proud of our effort and I thought we played really hard," said NAU coach Sue Darling. "Montana did a nice job disrupting our offense, but we played together. We made a few too many mistakes, turning it over 21 times, and they turned it over eight times. The team that made the fewest mistakes won the game."

The Lumberjacks played right with the Lady Griz through the first 10 minutes, trailing by two following a jump shot by Lusain. Over the next three minutes, though, NAU was outscored 12-1 as Montana took a 32-19 lead. The Lumberjacks got back in it with an 8-0 run started by a corner 3-pointer by freshman Catelyn Preston followed by an and-one by Frost and two free throws by Lusain. After Montana extend its lead back out to 10, NAU finished the half by scoring eight of the last 12 points, highlighted by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Lusain to head into halftime down just six at 43-37.

Although the Lady Griz led throughout the second half, they were unable to pull away as NAU kept itself within striking distance. The Lumberjacks trailed by just 10 at 66-56 with seven minutes left in the game, but they were unable to string together enough defensive stops, and Montana’s lead eventually reached 20 with 2:10 left.

Facing the Big Sky’s second-leading rebounding team, the Lumberjacks dominated the glass thanks to Anderson’s monster effort, outrebounding the Lady Griz 46-33, with 17 of their 46 rebounds coming on the offensive end. Anderson joined five other players in school history with 18 boards in a game to tie for the 10th-highest total in school history. She came up just one rebound shy of junior Erikka Banks’ team high of 19 this season.

Despite the advantage on the boards, NAU was outshot 44.8 percent to 41 percent from the field and was hurt by 21 turnovers that turned into a 19-10 edge for Montana in points off takeaways. In the deciding first half, the Lady Griz shot 57.1 percent, although the Lumberjacks limited them to just 35.9 percent in the final 20 minutes.

Lusain notched her fifth double-double of the season with a career-high-tying 25 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and two blocks. She finished her first season with 138 assists, the seventh-best single-season total in program history.

Frost capped off her career with her Big Sky-leading 19th 20-point game in her final contest. Her 25 points pushed her season total to 652 points, which is not only the NAU single-season record but the fifth-highest total in the history of the Big Sky. She ended her career with 1,079 points, good for ninth in school history.

"My strategy this weekend was to go all out to get two wins, but we came up short," Frost said. "I have learned so much in my time at NAU, and this season I played with a whole bunch of freshmen. They’re still learning, and I just tried to lead them as best as I could."

The Lumberjacks will lose Frost, the Big Sky scoring champion, but will return the rest of their team next season, led by seniors-to-be Anderson and Banks and a talented freshman class that gained valuable experience this season.

"We played in front of 3,600 people, and it’s always neat to come to Montana to play, because they do a great job with their program winning games and putting people in the stands," Darling said. "It was a really fun environment, and it was great for our kids to experience that. I’m excited about our future."