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January 16, 2014

Big First Half Dooms Women's Hoops At Eastern Washington

CHENEY, Wash. – Senior Amanda Frost scored a game-high 29 points, but a big first half by Eastern Washington proved to be too much for the Northern Arizona women's basketball team to overcome as the Lumberjacks suffered a 92-68 loss at Reese Court Thursday night. NAU fell to 1-3 in Big Sky conference play and 4-10 overall.

Five early points by junior Erikka Banks helped NAU to a 7-2 lead less than five minutes into the game but the Eagles answered with five points to tie it a 7-7. Frost would then hit her first of three triples to give NAU a three-point advantage before the home team would go on a game-changing 27-2 run over the next seven minutes. By the end of it, the Lumberjacks found themselves trailing by 22 at 34-12 with 5:40 remaining until the halftime. Four free throws – two by Banks and two by freshman Brittani Lusain – got NAU within 16 before Eastern Washington hit a trey right at the halftime buzzer to head into the locker room ahead 46-27.

The Lumberjacks repeatedly got to the free-throw line in the second half as they attempted to cut into the Eagles' lead. In the final 20 minutes, NAU got to the line 21 times and hit 17 of its attempts. After a pair by Frost, the Lumberjacks trailed by 17 with just under six minutes to play at 77-60, slicing a lead that had ballooned to as much as 28 three minutes prior. However, eight consecutive points by the Eagles halted any further thoughts of a second consecutive come-from-behind win by the Lumberjacks as they wound up with a 24-point loss to the preseason Big Sky favorite to win the conference.

NAU took care of the ball, finishing with just one more turnover than Eastern Washington (16-15) which was well below its season average. But the Lumberjacks struggled from the field as a whole, shooting just 32.2 percent for their second lowest field goal percentage of the season. The Eagles meanwhile shot 51.6 percent as a team and outrebounded the Lumberjacks by a 43-33 margin. They also shot 10-of-18 (64 percent) from behind the arc compared to just 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) for NAU.

Frost continued to shoot lights out at the free-throw line where she converted on 10-of-11 attempts en route to her 29 points, falling one point shy of her third 30-point game of the season. Lusain tallied 15 points off the bench and went 9-for-11 from the line herself as the Lumberjacks shot 26-for-31 (83.9 percent). It was the fourth consecutive game in which NAU shot better than 80 percent as a team.

Freshman Rene Coggins and Banks each had nine points and freshman Catelyn Preston pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, but they were outdone by four Eagles in double-figures, three of whom had at least 20 points.

The Lumberjacks look to end their week with a victory Saturday afternoon when they tip off versus Portland State in Portland, Ore. at 3 p.m. MST. The game will be NAU's third this week in three different states. A live audio stream of the game will be available here.