MISSOULA, Mont. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team did what no other Big Sky Conference team had done in 31 games, and that's beat the Montana Grizzlies at home. The Lumberjacks defeated the Grizzlies 73-65 in their conference opener at Dahlberg Arena tonight.
"I'm feeling good. I just told the guys in the locker room that this is why we recruited them…to win games like this," said head coach Jack Murphy.
"This win is a testament to the guys that were here since I started. It feels good to get a win up here."
NAU (4-8, 1-0 Big Sky) and Montana (5-5, 0-1 Big Sky) made their Big Sky Conference opener a good one for the crowd. Both teams managed to run the floor, trying to knock their opponent off their game.
With the lead only changing once in the first half and Montana taking a 37-29 edge into the locker room at halftime, it was up to NAU to takeover in the second half.
The Lumberjacks started the second half off on a 12-2 run. Back-to-back buckets by Max Jacobsen, followed by two shots by Aaseem Dixon gave NAU its first lead of the half at 41-39 with 14:15 remaining.
NAU's sharp shooting quieted the Montana crowd as the Lumberjacks made seven of their first eight shots in the second half. NAU continued to stay one step ahead of the Grizzlies. Jacobsen netted three straight baskets for NAU to give the Lumberjacks a 54-48 lead with 8:10 to go.
A two-handed slam by Quinton Upshur led to a three-point play and a 59-51 lead for NAU. Montana cut NAU's lead to one point with one minute and 30 seconds left to play, but a three-pointer by Upshur and four made free throws by Dixon sealed the win for the Lumberjacks.
"This win was big time," said Dixon. "NAU has been known to struggle in the second half, but we are a new and improved team. We communicated very well in the second half and we were able to come out with the win."
Dixon hit his first three shots before finishing with a career-high 23 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Jacobsen added 21 points, while Upshur had 18 points. NAU finished 17-for-22 in the second half from the floor to come away with the victory.
Kareem Jamar led Montana with 21 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Gregory chipped in 17 points, while the Grizzlies finished 40 percent from the floor.
NAU will continue Big Sky play on Saturday when it travels to Bozeman, Mont. for a contest against Montana State. Tip-off at Worthington Arena is slated for 7:05 p.m.
Notes: Tenth double figure scoring game for Quinton Upshur, ninth for Max Jacobsen and seventh for Aaseem Dixon…Third straight Big Sky Conference opener win for NAU…First win in Missoula for NAU since February 16, 2008…NAU snapped a 31-game conference win streak for Montana…NAU's bench was held scoreless.