Photo Courtesy of Jeff Golden
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team exploded for 57 first half points, their highest point total for a half this season, and did just about everything right in the first half in cruising to an 88-67 victory over Portland State at the Peter W. Stott Center Saturday afternoon. The Lumberjacks shot 66.7 percent in the first half in building up a 26-point halftime lead to pick up their first victory in Portland since 2006 spanning seven consecutive losses on the Vikings' home court. The 88 points set a new season-high.
"I was proud of our kids; I told them that Thursday was a dark day for us," said head coach Sue Darling. "We've been very inconsistent; our losses have been bad and our wins have been great. It's matter of coming out focused and coming together with one goal in mind and that's to play our very best to win the game and we did that tonight. I'm very proud of them."
Senior Amanda Frost and freshman Rene Coggins combined for 29 points on the outside and junior Erikka Banks controlled the paint with 13 points in the opening period as the Lumberjacks grabbed a lead three and a half minutes into the game and took off from there. The teams exchanged the first eight baskets until NAU seized control with a three-pointer from Banks, her first since Dec. 14. Her triple was one of three by the Lumberjacks during a 12-0 run that put them in front 19-8 in what seemed like a matter of seconds with 15:05 to play in the first half.
Another 11-0 run minutes later, including two threes by Coggins and one by Frost, pushed NAU's lead out to 21 with 9:52 remaining before halftime. Freshman Brittani Lusain's layup gave the Lumberjacks' their biggest advantage of the game of 28 at 51-23 with under three minutes left before NAU held a commanding 57-31 lead at the half. The 57 points topped their 51-point second half from Monday versus Southern Utah for the team's highest scoring half of the season and the Lumberjacks' 66.7 first half field goal percentage tied the fourth-best field goal percentage in a half in school history. Coggins and Frost each went 3-of-4 from long distance, helping the Lumberjacks to a 7-for-9 (77.8 percent) showing behind the arc.
"Coming off the loss (on Thursday) it hit us and we came out with the mentality and intensity we needed to get going right away instead of getting into a hole," Coggins said. "Coach always stresses that we have all the pieces and we just need to put it all together and we did that tonight especially in the first half. It just shows that we're moving in the right direction and our team work is improving every single game."
Although the Lumberjacks shot just 37 percent in the second half, their first half outburst was more than enough for them to secure their second Big Sky victory of the season. NAU (5-10, 2-4 BSC) made stops on the defensive end though and knocked down free throws when it needed to when Portland State got within 15 with 6:55 remaining in the game. Frost started with two free-throws and Lusain scored seven of her career-high tying 18 points during a critical stretch which swung the balance back in the Lumberjacks' favor and put the game out of reach at 82-60 with three minutes left.
The Vikings countered the Lumberjacks' solid offensive output with one of their own as they shot 50 percent from the field for the game. However, the Lumberjacks dominated the rebounding battle with a 38-25 edge, 15 coming on the offensive glass. The Lumberjacks also displayed outstanding ball movement as they equaled their season-high with 24 assists, 18 coming in the first half. The Lumberjacks also outscored the Vikings 44-30 in the paint and shot 77.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Frost shot 10-of-18 overall and 3-of-5 from three-point range in scoring a game-high 28 points. She finished one assist shy of her first career double-double with a lifetime-best nine assists to go along with five rebounds. Three other Lumberjacks scored in double-figures as Banks tallied her fourth double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Lusain added 18 points and six assists off the bench and Coggins scored all 11 of her points in the decisive first half. Junior Raven Anderson also totaled a strong six points, seven rebounds, three assists and a block in reserve.
The Lumberjacks finish their three-game week with a pair of Big Sky victories and return home next week to host Northern Colorado on Thursday and North Dakota on Saturday. Both games are at 6:30 p.m. and will be played in the Skydome.