FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Head coach Jack Murphy and the Northern Arizona men's basketball team trumped Montana 67-47 in their regular season finale to complete the season sweep of the Grizzlies. The win gave the Lumberjacks the No. 3 seed in next week's Big sky Conference Tournament.
"We are definitely excited to finish the regular season this way, but this is only one chapter of the season," said Murphy. "Next for us is the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Our guys played their tails off with great effort from our frontcourt guys – Jordan Martin and Ako Kaluna. We played a lot of defenses and I am proud of the way we played today."
The two teams struggled from the field in the beginning stages of the game totaling just six points between them. The offense picked up midway through the half as the pace of play picked up. Kaluna was a major boost off the bench in the first half tallying 10 points and five rebounds in just nine minutes.
The Lumberjacks' (15-16, 12-8 Big Sky) defense was very impressive in the second half holding the Grizzlies to just five field goals shooting 26 percent from the floor. NAU went into the break with a five point lead highlighted by a huge slam through the lane by Quinton Upshur with just under two minutes remaining.
Montana ( 17-12, 12-8 Big Sky)opened up the second half on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 28 and that would be the closest to leading the Grizzlies would get. Through the remainder of the game NAU went on a 39-19 run thanks to some efficient offense and stifling defense. NAU held Montana to just six field goals defensively and shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the second half.
Much like last game the Lumberjack men were dominant on the glass winning the rebounding battle 40-21 for the game and 20-10 in the second half. NAU corralled 15 offensive rebounds leading to 15 second chance points. The team also got a very strong boost from the reserves with 32 points off the bench.
In his final game in the Skydome Max Jacobsen contributed in a plethora of ways. The senior tallied eight points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal. Chris Heine started for the first time in his Lumberjack career in his final game in the Skydome.
"(On Senior Day) It's definitely something that you won't know how it feels until it actually happens," said Jacobsen. "It's bitter sweet. I love playing with these guys. I'm just happy that we made it to the conference tournament and that our season isn't over yet."
The top scorer for NAU was Upshur with 14 points and four rebounds. Kaluna added 12 points (6-for-8) and six rebounds, while Aaseem Dixon chipped in 11 points. NAU shot 50 percent from the floor for the game.
Kareem Jamar led the way for the Grizzlies with 15 points and three rebounds. Montana shot 28.9 percent from the field and just 31.6 percent in the second half.
NAU will play its first game of the Big Sky Tournament on Thursday, March 13. Its' opponent is still to be determined.
Notes: Double digit games Upshur (27), Aaseem Dixon (16) and Ako Kaluna (4)…NAU swept the season series versus Montana for the first time since the 2007-08 season…Chris Heine earned his first career start on Senior Day…Heine and Max Jacobsen were honored before the game in a Senior Day presentation…NAU led by as many as 23 points with 3:14 to go…The win gave NAU the No. 3 seed in the Big Sky Tournament next week…It is the best finish for NAU since 2008 when it finished second.