FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's basketball team faced off against Eastern Washington Thursday night battling for position in the Big Sky Conference and for the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Lumberjacks start 4-1 in the conference with – win over the Eagles.
"The crowd was great tonight," said head coach Jack Murphy. "We've worked on the press all year. The farther we get into conference play, the better we've gotten. The players are really starting to get it. It feels good to win our third game in a row, but most importantly we have to get back to work tomorrow and prepare for Saturday."
Northern Arizona went into the game fourth in the Big Sky and right behind it was Eastern Washington standing in the fifth position.
"Starting 4-1 in the conference is huge for us," said junior guard Quinton Upshur. "You never know what is going to happen in the Big Sky so getting these road wins and protecting our home court is big for us."
NAU and EWU struggled from the field in the first with both teams shooting an average of 35 percent from the field. Upshur led the charge for the Lumberjacks in the first half scoring 17 points and pulled down six rebounds and NAU went into halftime on a 9-3 run to lead the Eagles 36-27. The Eagles were led in the first half by Venky Jois who scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half alone. Junior Aaseem Dixon also scored double figures in the first half, dropping 10 points to give the Lumberjacks a nine-point lead going into halftime.
NAU's offense started off hot in the second half going on an 11-0 run and the Eagles did not score for nearly four minutes. NAU's largest lead was 25 points with 7:57 remaining in the game and the Lumberjacks never looked back. The Lumberjacks' defense was stellar in the second half allowing only three points to Jois and the Eagles shot just 30 percent from the field.
Northern Arizona now goes to 4-1 in the Big Sky, which ties them for second place in conference. The Lumberjacks will end their first Big Sky home stand on Saturday, Jan. 18 when they host Portland State.
Junior Quinton Upshur scored a career high 26 points… Freshman Ako Kaluna had a career high 15 points… NAU scored more than its average this season (66.4 ppg)… NAU leads the all-time series 21-8… This was NAU's first win over EWU since Feb. 16, 2011… Len Springs recorded four blocks or more for the third time this season.