Men's Basketball Season Recap

Men's Basketball Season Recap

The Northern Arizona men's basketball team created their own path this season, as it defeated the odds and finished tied for second in the Big Sky standings after being picked to finished seventh and ninth by the media and conference head coaches.

The Lumberjacks began the season with only two starters from a year ago, as it looked to junior wingman Gaellan Bewernick and senior forward Max Jacobsen to provide leadership for this year's squad.

Under the guidance of Bewernick and Jacobsen, NAU learned to play together as a team and unite as one. The Lumberjacks began the season with 10 newcomers, so its biggest task was to incorporate all of the new players into NAU's system. It didn't take long for that to happen, as the Lumberjacks were able to embark on a memorable season.  

In two years under head coach Jack Murphy, the Lumberjacks have proved to the rest of the conference that they belong in the top tier of the Big Sky Conference. Before Murphy took over in 2012, NAU had finished 5-24, 1-15 Big Sky the year prior. In Murphy's first year, NAU finished with an 11-21 overall record and 8-12 conference finish. In 2013-14, Murphy was able to increase the Lumberjacks' overall win total to 15-17 and 12-8 in conference play. That's 10 more overall wins and 11 more conference victories than what NAU had the year before Murphy took over. It takes time to build a foundation, but Murphy seems to have the right pieces to the puzzle to make NAU a winner.

The Lumberjacks started the season with a road win at UTSA. NAU came close to upsetting USC in Los Angeles – only losing by four points – but struggled for the rest of the month, as its only other win came at home versus San Diego Christian.

In December, the Lumberjacks got a huge win over its new in-state rival Grand Canyon in a thrilling victory at home.

January started off very well for NAU as it ended Montana's 31-game Big Sky home winning streak. The Lumberjacks lost at the buzzer to Montana State, but from there they went on a four-game win streak – three of which came on the road.

NAU went 3-7 over its next 10 games, but it managed to get on the right path as it won its final four games of the regular season. The Lumberjacks were the only team in the Big Sky to sweep the Idaho State-Weber State road trip, as it handed the Wildcats their first conference home loss this season, snapping a league record 27 straight home wins.

To put icing on the cake, the Lumberjacks defeated both Montana State and Montana in its final home series. NAU's season sweep over the Grizzlies was something that hadn't been done by the Lumberjacks since the 2007-08 season.

The Lumberjacks' run at the end of the season propelled them into second place in the Big Sky at 12-8.

NAU made its 22nd Big Sky Tournament appearance, as it fell to Northern Colorado by two points in the first round.

Junior transfer guard Quinton Upshur was named the 2014 Big Sky Men's Basketball Newcomer of the Year, in addition to earning Big Sky First Team honors. The Norfolk, Va. native led NAU in scoring and ranked seventh in the league with an average of 15.3 points per game. When it came to conference games, Upshur averaged 16.8 points (7th), 1.5 steals (T-4th) and 0.9 blocked shots (T-9th). Upshur's sharp shooting ranked him third with an average of 2.7 three-point field goals per game. He averaged 46.5 percent from behind the arc for the second best in the league. 

Jacobsen, a Big Sky Honorable Mention pick from Lake Oswego, Ore., finished his career at NAU with 727 points, 309 rebounds and 33 blocked shots.

Junior center Len Springs invited everyone to his block party this season, as he finished with 58 blocked shots to tie for third all-time on the NAU season charts.

NAU finished the season ranked in the top three in scoring defense (2nd), three-point field goal percentage (3rd), rebounding defense (2nd), rebounding margin (2nd), steals (2nd) and blocked shots (1st).

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