NAU’s season ends with loss to Weber State
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Frank Otis scored 16 points and Weber State beat Northern Arizona 84-58 Thursday in a Big Sky Conference quarterfinals game.
Otis was 7 of 10 from the field for the game and had six rebounds for the No. 2 seed. Davion Berry added 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. Kyle Tresnak had 12 points and six rebounds, and Scott Bamforth also had 12 points.
Weber State (25-5) led 36-21 at halftime. The Wildcats shot 53.6 percent from the field for the game, while Northern Arizona shot 37 percent. Weber State outrebounded seventh-seeded Northern Arizona 36-27. Weber State made 19 of 23 free throws (82.6 percent).
DeWayne Russell led Northern Arizona (11-21) with 21 points. Gabe Rogers added 12. Gaellan Bewernick led with eight rebounds.
Weber State has won its last 12 games and swept the season series with NAU.
“I thought Weber State came out and they obviously had a great game plan,” said NAU coach Jack Murphy. “We had played them close less than two weeks ago at home. They started off the game with a defensive intensity that they had not shown in two games against us throughout the season.”
The Lumberjacks missed their first four shots and had three turnovers before getting on the board with a Max Jacobsen layup at the 15:39 mark that made it 11-2.
“You can’t go five minutes without scoring, especially against a team like Weber State,” said Murphy. “We just did not have that pop offensively in the first half that we needed to have to hang with them.”
NAU cut the lead to six at 16-10 before a 13-4 run pushed the lead to 15 points with 4:42 left. Weber State would take a 15-point lead at the half behind a 50 percent effort from the field. The Lumberjacks shot just 34 percent over the opening 20 minutes.
“We did a good job of controlling the paint at times in the first half,” said Murphy, who noted it was 12-12 at the half in paint points. “But they had too many second chance points and points off turnovers that we could not overcome.”
The Wildcats extended the lead in the second half and survived a few runs by the Lumberjacks with a strong shooting night (53.6 percent) and balanced offensive performance, with four players finishing in double figures.
“In the second half we had the energy and were playing well at times, but when you dig yourselves in a hole by 16 points against a team like Weber State, it is going to be difficult to overcome,” said Murphy. “We had to do a little more gambling and full-court pressure than we would have liked and got out of rhythm offensively.”
The game was the last in an NAU uniform for the five seniors: Michael Dunn, Ephraim Ekanem, Luis Flores, Gabe Rogers and Stallon Saldivar.
“I have to credit my five seniors,” said Murphy. “They were absolutely amazing during the season.”
Rogers hit two 3-pointers in the game to surpass former Weber State standout and current NBA player Damian Lillard for fifth all-time on the Big Sky charts.
“They were playing Weber State defense,” said Rogers. “That is a great team and they are very well-coached. Scott Bamforth is a great defender. They just said Gabe was not going to beat us, and that is what they did. We struggled.”
Rogers’ 12 points gave him 573 on the season, the second-best single-season total in school history, and he finished the season with 17 straight games in double figures. He completes his four-year career with 1,422 points, the fifth-highest total in NAU history.
“The media and the coaches picked us last,” Rogers said of the Big Sky preseason polls. “We are walking out of here proud. We turned a lot of heads, and Coach Murphy came into a difficult place and he really changed the culture around. I really think the sky is the limit for this program and this team.”
Saldivar finished his career with 505 assists, the sixth-best total in Big Sky history, while playing in 118 games. Only two players have played more games for the Lumberjacks in school history.
“When you have five seniors, they are going to fight for their final college game,” said Rogers. “We kept fighting, and we have a coach that is always fighting (with us).