FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Hawaii's 8-0 run over a three-minute span in the second half proved to be the difference as the Rainbow Wahine spoiled the Northern Arizona women's basketball team's 2013-14 season opener Sunday afternoon at the Rolle Activity Center. The spurt broke open a one-point game as the Lumberjacks eventually fell 74-66 in spite of an efficient offensive showing from the field.
"I felt that we got some things offensively that we have been working on but our defense was non-existent," said head coach Sue Darling. "Giving up 74 points is too much. We had 20 assists on 25 field goals which was fantastic and we shot 45 percent. I give Hawaii a lot of credit. They played well and we need to be grittier."
The first half got off to a fairly slow start as both teams struggled to find their shot early with the score tied at 12-12 midway the period. The Lumberjacks found their groove in the second 10 minutes of the half though as a 10-5 run sparked by two of the team's eight freshmen put them ahead 22-17 with six minutes remaining. Priscilla Brooks and Brittani Lusain came off the bench and combined for eight of those points in an impressive debut showing by the first-year Lumberjacks. NAU led by four in the waning seconds of the half until Hawaii's Ashleigh Karaitiana nailed a three-pointer as time expired to bring the visitors within one at 33-32 heading into halftime.
Out of halftime, neither team was able to grab a sizable advantage as the Rainbow Wahine's three-point lead was the largest lead by either team through the first 10 minutes of the second half. Lusain's layup at the 8:37 of the half cut Hawaii's lead to 53-52 before the Rainbow Wahine went on their game-changing run. Over the next three minutes, the Lumberjacks found themselves trailing 61-52 with less than six minutes remaining in the game. Five consecutive points by senior Amanda Frost on back-to-back possessions closed the gap to 61-57, but the Lumberjacks were unable to get closer than four the rest of the way out.
"I know we have to work on and it shows but what we also showed tonight was how far we've come and how much potential we have as a team," Frost said. "Our defense struggled and we missed some layups, but our plays were working really well."
Frost, NAU's only senior this season, led the way with 24 points which equaled her second-highest single-game total of her career. She shot 8-of-18 from the field and knocked down four three-pointers in a game-high 36 minutes. Junior Raven Anderson chipped in 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while junior Erikka Banks tied her career-high with 14 rebounds.
While the team's three returners all shined, the Lumberjack newcomers had successful debuts as well. Brooks had six points while Lusain had six points, seven rebounds and two steals off the bench. Freshmen Taylor Leyva and Rene Coggins earned starts in their first game and Leyva led NAU with five assists.
NAU outshot Hawaii, 45 percent to 42 percent, but turned the ball over 18 times compared to Hawaii's 14. The Rainbow Wahine made the most of their extra opportunities as they had 22 points off NAU miscues in addition to 18 second chance points.
The Lumberjacks have a week off from competition before heading out on their first road trip of the season. They will next play at UTEP on Nov. 22.