FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A couple fine-tuned adjustments at halftime did the Northern Arizona University basketball team wonders, as the Lumberjacks coasted to its largest margin of victory in Big Sky play this season by beating Northern Colorado (7-13, 3-6), 63-50, Thursday night.
"We got back to Lumberjack basketball," said head coach Jack Murphy. "Offensively, we did better in the second half. I was really proud of our defensive effort in the second half. When we win the battle in the paint, we tend to do well. Seniors Ako Kaluna and Jordyn Martin both played well tonight."
Leading the way for the Lumberjacks (5-16, 2-6) was senior Jordyn Martin, who led NAU in points for the second-consecutive game and eighth time overall this season with 19. Martin, who also notched double-digit points for the fourth time in the last five games, also grabbed eight boards and tied a season-high with nine buckets.
Not to be forgotten is Martin's fellow senior Ako Kaluna. Kaluna, the newest edition to the NAU 1,000 point club, logged his fifth-career double-double and first of the season with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 10 boards—eight of which came in the second half of play.
Martin and the Lumberjacks put the pedal to the metal early on, racing out to a 9-3 lead after netting their first four buckets from the field. In the first meeting of the season with the Bears, Martin only had six points the entire game—he surpassed that tally in the first six minutes of the first half.
After weathering the NAU flurry early on, the Bear defense answered the call. In fact, as both squads struggled to stuff the cylinder, there was a period where NAU and UNC went scoreless from the field for six-plus minutes. What really crippled the 'Jacks was the sloppy play—turning the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes of play.
With 5:51 to go in the first, however, the reliable Martin went back to work in the post and laid one up off the glass to end the Lumberjacks' scoring drought. Sophomores Steven Stanley and Isaiah Thomas penciled themselves in on the scoresheet with back-to-back lay-ups late in the half to pull the 'Jacks within six points, 26-20.
A spark was lit heading to halftime by JoJo Anderson, as the freshman from Houston drained four-straight free throws before snagging an offensive board and muscling in a layup at the buzzer. He netted the final six points of the first for NAU, finishing with a stat line of 10/7/3—a new career-high in rebounds
The Lumberjacks maintained a stranglehold on that momentum coming out for the second half of action, outscoring the Bears 11-5 in the first 4:07.
From that point on, it was all NAU as the home team shot an impressive 51 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes while holding the Bears to a meager 25 percent in the second half. In fact, the 'Jacks—who were allowing Big Sky opponents to score at a .463 clip this season—smothered the Bears on defense and held them to a 28.5 percentage for the game.
Freshman Chris Bowling caught fire in the second half to help extend the NAU lead, draining 3-of-4 from the field for an all-important six points. Sophomore Marcus DeBerry was held off the scoresheet, but nabbed six boards as the Lumberjacks outrebounded UNC in the game, 44-30.
The Lumberjacks, who average a shooting percentage of 41 percent in conference play, crushed that tonight, going 26-54 (.480) from the field … After turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, NAU was more careful in the second half and only mustered seven … Thomas set a new season-high in points (6) and career-high in rebounds (7)
The Lumberjacks are back in action at the Walkup Skydome for a 2 p.m. MT tip against North Dakota (12-7, 7-2) on Saturday. Tickets can be purchased here or at the ticket window outside the east entrance of the Skydome.