Defense, Rebounding Key in Women's Hoops Win at UVU
OREM, Utah – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team picked up their first victory of the season Saturday afternoon behind a career-high 30 points from senior Amanda Frost. NAU surged ahead in the second half, erasing a two-point deficit at halftime, in handing Utah Valley an 80-66 defeat to move to 1-2 this season.
But the Lumberjacks received contributions beyond Frost's career scoring night as three other players recorded double-digit points. Junior Erikka Banks and freshman Priscilla Brooks each added 19 points and freshman Brittani Lusain chipped in 12 as the four players combined for all 80 of NAU's points. The team also limited UVU's Katie Kuklok to just eight points after she entered Saturday having scored 20 or more points in five of her first six games this season.
"The offense was the offense but at the end of the day we played much better team defense," said head coach Sue Darling. "Brittani Lusain had one of the toughest assignments in the nation. She was guarding a kid that was averaging 22 points and held her to eight and everybody else stepped up and did their job."
The Lumberjacks found themselves trailing at halftime only by two despite shooting only 38.9 percent from the field. Although the Wolverines shot 58.3 percent, NAU hung around by pounding the offensive glass, something it accomplished all game. The Lumberjacks held a 9-0 advantage on second chance points in the first half.
Utah Valley held its largest lead of the game, 31-24, with nearly four minutes remaining the first half but NAU finished the half with a pivotal stretch. The Lumberjacks tied the score at 34-all with 1:44 to play off a layup by Brooks before the Wolverines wrapped up the first 20 minutes with a basket to take a 36-34 lead into intermission.
The Wolverines remained in front until Lusain hit a jump shot to put the Lumberjacks ahead 42-40 with 15:35 left in the game. NAU maintained a slim advantage for most of the next seven minutes before Utah Valley inched back in front 56-55. A second-chance layup by Brooks with 7:50 gave NAU the lead right back for good on the following possession. The Lumberjacks then used a 12-2 run to break open a one-point game and by the time Banks converted on two free throws with less than two minutes to play, NAU led 71-60 and it cruised from there, never letting its lead slip under 10 points.
Although NAU shot just 41.2 percent from the field, it outrebounded Utah Valley by a 46-30 margin. The Lumberjacks particularly dominated on the offensive glass, pulling in 20 offensive rebounds that led to 20 second chance points as compared to just five second chance points for the Wolverines. Banks pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds, equaling the sixth-highest single-game total in school history, and Brooks grabbed 13 rebounds as both players notched the team's first double-doubles of the season.
"For the past few weeks, Coach has been getting on us about rebounding," Brooks said. "We didn't do a great job rebounding against Hawaii and UTEP so it was our focus to keep them off the glass."
Frost shot 10-of-21 from the field, hit four of her seven attempts from long distance and made all six of her free throws for her first 30-point game of her career. She also added a team-high four steals. Lusain made her first start of her career and posted an all-around stat line with seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in addition to her 12 points.
NAU also shot 80 percent from the free-throw line (20-for-25) after making just 58 percent through its first two games. The Lumberjacks also turned the ball over just 14 times, well below their season average of 23.5 entering the game.
"I'm really proud of our team because we had a great week of practice," Darling said. "We worked on free-throw shooting, we worked on rebounding and we worked on defense and they showed all of that today. Our bench pushed our starters all week and made them who they were tonight."
The Lumberjacks head out for the first of two non-conference trips to California next week with games at UC Santa Barbara on Thursday and Loyola Marymount on Saturday.