FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team shot 56.1 percent from the field and utilized an extremely balanced offensive effort to come out victorious in their home opener on Saturday, 83-59 over San Diego Christian. The win snapped a three-game skid since the Lumberjacks' season-opening victory as they improved to 2-3 this season.
"The open man is the go-to man and I thought we did a good job of moving and making the extra pass," said head coach Jack Murphy. "We had 19 assists which are a season-high. It was nice to see all the guys get involved passing the ball without selfishness."
After San Diego Christian's Derek Dickerson cut NAU's lead to 24-21 with a three-pointer, the Lumberjacks went on a game-changing run with just under eight minutes to play in the first half. An 8-0 run over the next three minutes highlighted by two layups by freshman Ako Kaluna pushed the Lumberjacks out in front by 11. Two free throws by Dickerson stopped the Hawks' scoreless drought and brought their deficit down to single-digits for the final time before the Lumberjacks finished the half by scoring eight of the last 10 points to take a commanding 42-25 lead into halftime.
NAU's advantage quickly extended out to 20 points and it led by 23 following a layup by junior Aaseem Dixon less than three minutes into the second half. San Diego Christian failed to get any closer than 16 points in the final 20 minutes and the Lumberjacks maintained a 20-point advantage throughout the majority of the half. Six consecutive points by senior Max Jacobsen gave NAU its biggest lead of the game at 72-48 with 6:41 to play as the Lumberjacks cruised to the victory.
"It's always good to get a W on our home court especially in our first game in the Skydome," Jacobsen said. "We could've played better because we had some moments where we weren't playing as hard as we should be, but we're going to try and improve every day at practice. Overall, I'm happy with the win and to be 1-0 at home."
Jacobsen led five Lumberjacks in double-digit scoring with 15 points. Freshman Christopher Miller, making his collegiate debut, came off the bench to score 12 while junior Quinton Upshur and freshman Kris Yanku finished with 11. Junior Gaellan Bewernick rounded out NAU's scorers in double-figures with 10. For the game the Lumberjacks shot 32-of-57 from the field and held the Hawks to just 36.8 percent shooting, 27.6 percent in the decisive first half.
"My teammates trusted me and got me the ball when I was open and I just let it go," Miller said of immediately scoring eight points after subbing into the game. "It was frustrating (to not play in the first four games) but it was a good learning experience. I got to see how the game flowed so when I got in I was able to produce."
NAU also controlled the glass, outrebounding San Diego Christian 43-22. Jacobsen narrowly missed his first double-double of season with a season-high nine rebounds. Bewernick added seven rebounds in the winning effort. Dixon and Yanku each handed out five assists to lead the Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks are back out on the road for a three-game in three-day span at the Fresno State Tournament this week from Nov. 29-Dec. 1. NAU will face CSU Bakersfield, Drake and host Fresno State.