NAU women return home to take on UNC
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After three straight weeks on the road, the NAU women’s basketball team (6-16, 5-8 Big Sky) returns home to host Northern Colorado (13-9, 10-3 Big Sky) at 6:35 p.m. Thursday in a Valentine’s Day clash.
The game will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona Plus; click here for channel listings.
“We have a lot of room for improvement,” said NAU senior guard Tyler Stephens-Jenkins. “... We’re coming out hungry and want to beat both of these teams. These are two big games that we need, and they should be exciting to watch.”
NAU is coming off a stretch of five road games over the last three weeks that began at Northern Colorado. The team played in five states and three time zones during that period. With the tough stretch behind them, the Lumberjacks will play five of their last seven regular-season contests in Flagstaff, where they have fared well in Big Sky play.
In five Big Sky home games thus far, NAU has gone 3-2, with its two losses by only five total points. In those five home games, NAU is outshooting its opposition .454-.357 and has made 25 more field goals with 47 more assists. The Lumberjacks are also averaging more steals and blocks in their home conference games and have a plus-1.4 turnover margin. NAU is plus-6.6 in scoring margin in its home Big Sky contests, as two of the team’s three wins, over Eastern Washington and Weber State, have come by an average of 18 points.
To close their road trip last Saturday the Lumberjacks erased a 12-point second half deficit to win at Eastern Washington for their largest comeback victory of the season. NAU trailed by six points with just over three minutes to play before going on an 11-0 run to rally for the win. Seniors Amy Patton and Tyler Stephens-Jenkins and sophomore Erikka Banks keyed the run offensively, while junior Amanda Frost and senior Aubrey Davis led a strong defensive effort down the stretch, as NAU forced three turnovers and five missed shots to cue the comeback.
Patton became Northern Arizona’s all-time leading rebounder last Thursday at Portland State, grabbing a defensive rebound at the 18:16 mark of the second half for her 772nd career rebound to surpass Alyssa Wahl on the program's all-time list. The record came just over one month after Patton surpassed Wahl to become NAU’s all-time leading scorer, and she also has become the program’s all-time leader in field goals made and attempted this season.
Patton is one of only four active NCAA Division-I women’s basketball players to be her program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. The others are Shante Evans of Hofstra, Sametria Gideon of Kennesaw State and Alex Cowling of Loyola Marymount. She is also just four 3-point makes off the school record in that category, which is held by Kim Winkfield, and she is third all-time in steals.
Northern Colorado comes to Flagstaff as the hottest team in the Big Sky, as the Bears are riding a six-game winning streak. The streak started with a 69-54 win over NAU in Greeley on Jan. 24, when UNC shot 54.0 percent from the field, including 60.9 percent shooting in the second half. Senior Lauren Oosdyke went 11 for 12 on 2-point attempts in that game while scoring 24 points to lead the Bears, while Patton scored 14 points to lead NAU, which shot 43.5 percent overall but was outrebounded 30-23.
Oosdyke has been named Big Sky Player of the Week in two of the last three weeks and ranks third in the conference with 14.0 points per game. She shoots 49.6 percent from the field and is contributing 5.8 rebounds per game. The Bears lead the Big Sky in defense, allowing only 54.2 points per game, and are second with a plus-6.8 rebounding margin.
UNC has gone 10-0 at home this year but just 3-9 on the road, including a 3-3 mark in road conference games. Northern Colorado has won the last seven meetings with NAU, though, and the Lumberjacks are just 3-14 all-time against the Bears.