FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Northern Arizona women rallied from an early 13-point deficit to force a single-possession game in the final seconds but were unable to overcome Montana State in an 83-78 loss Thursday night.
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Junior Amy Patton recorded her 14th consecutive double-digit scoring game with a team-high 20 points as the Lumberjacks dropped to 8-18 overall and 3-11 in the Big Sky. The Bobcats improved to 9-5 in the conference and 17-9 overall.
“We cut it to a one-possession game but then just ran out of gas,” said NAU head coach Laurie Kelly, whose team trailed by just three points on three occasions in the final two minutes. “I just feel like we’re so close to breaking through and being the team that we are capable of being, but I do think the little things right now are the difference. In the first half it was offensive rebounds and transition scores that hurt us, and in the second half it was putting them at the free-throw line.”
The Bobcats jumped to a 12-2 lead just 3:10 into the game, eventually opening a 22-9 advantage with 11:47 remaining in the opening period. NAU used a 19-6 run over the ensuing six minutes to draw within two points at 30-28, but Montana State would respond and take a 36-30 lead with 2:13 to play. The Lumberjacks would close the half on a 5-0 run to go into the intermission trailing by just a single point.
A three-point play by Patton gave the Lumberjacks their first lead of the game at 43-41 at the 17:25 mark of the second half. The game would seesaw from there, as neither team led by more than three points and the game saw seven ties and eight lead changes into the final seven minutes. After the score was tied at 63 with 7:40 remaining, NAU went scoreless for more than three minutes while the Bobcats went on an 11-0 spurt to build a 74-63 advantage. The Lumberjacks would respond with an 8-0 spurt to get back within three points at 74-71 with 2:02 to play, but they could get no closer. Montana went 9 for 10 from the free-throws linein the final 1:39, eventually opening up a seven-point spread before settling for the five-point win.
Patton posted her third 20-point game in the last four contests and added four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Senior Katie Pratt and sophomore Khyra Conerly both finished with 10 points, with Pratt tying for the team high with six rebounds.
Montana State had five players finish in double figures and was led by 24 points from senior Katie Bussey, who became the Big Sky’s all-time 3-point leader with her first of four strikes from long range 35 seconds into the game.
Montana State shot 44 percent for the contest compared with 41 percent shooting for the Lumberjacks, while NAU held a 40-39 rebounding edge. The Lumberjacks tied a season high with 20 free-throw makes in 28 attempts only to be outdone by the Bobcats’ 23-of-26 performance from the stripe. NAU also made eight 3-pointers in the contest, led by a trio of treys from sophomore Amanda Frost.