FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball posted a big bounce back effort on Thursday, defeating Portland State, 84-61, with a complete effort on both ends of the court. In front of a boisterous and energetic crowd of local schoolchildren on Field Trip Day, the Lumberjacks jumped out on the Vikings early and used one of their finest defensive efforts of the season to improve to 4-9 in Big Sky play and 7-15 overall.
"We've been working a lot on our defense and I thought we played very good defense today," said head coach Sue Darling. "Defense is a little bit about technique, but the rest of it is energy, effort and teamwork. We put that all together today. I couldn't be more proud of our team and it paid off today."
The game mirrored the teams' previous meeting in Portland a month ago, a game in which the Lumberjacks took a sizeable lead into the half en route to a 88-67 victory. Behind six threes, the Lumberjacks raced out to a 24-8 lead just seven minutes into the game. Senior Amanda Frost, the Big Sky's leading scorer, came out of the gates scorching connecting on half of the team's six treys in the opening spurt to score 13 quick points, three days after an 11-point performance in NAU's loss at Southern Utah on Monday.
Utilizing an aggressive defensive intensity, the Lumberjacks pressured the Vikings throughout the first half, forcing 10 turnovers which turned into 13 points. After back-to-back layups by junior Raven Anderson to close out the half, the Lumberjacks headed into the halftime with a commanding 44-19 advantage. NAU shot 56.7 percent in the first half and made seven three-pointers while holding the Vikings to just 28.6 percent from the field. The 19 points were the least allowed by the Lumberjacks in a half this season.
Frost carried the Lumberjacks with 18 first half points and in the second half, NAU blitzed Portland State from all directions. A 9-0 run capped by a three-point play from Frost gave the Lumberjacks their largest lead of the game at 35 points, 67-32, with 12 minutes remaining. Five players scored at least six points in the final 20 minutes for NAU and it maintained a 30-point advantage throughout the majority of the second half until the Vikings closed the game with 12 straight points to provide the final margin.
Portland State managed just 19 made baskets, the fewest of any NAU opponent this season, and its 61 points were the second-lowest total allowed by the Lumberjacks this season. With a season-high home crowd of 753, the energy in the Skydome was palpable and the Lumberjacks benefitted greatly.
"Our athletic department scrambled to put together this Field Trip Day and to have all those kids in the stands was really neat," Darling said. "It really helped us not only get energy but maintain it throughout the game. I give them the double thumbs-up for the 6th man award."
The Lumberjacks had six players in double-figures for the second time this season led by Frost's 28 points. Frost connected on four from behind the arc and also added four rebounds, two assists and four steals. Anderson was efficient in the paint for her 12 points and Coggins equaled Frost's three-point output for 12 points as well. Junior Erikka Banks made all five of her attempts from the field for 11 points and freshman Brittani Lusain matched that total. Freshman Catelyn Preston rounded out NAU's scorers with 10 points.
NAU shot 52.7 percent for the game while Portland State shot just 38 percent. The Lumberjacks shot 50 percent from three and also outrebounded the Vikings, 35-24. Anderson and Lusain each grabbed a team-best six boards and Banks pulled down five rebounds.
With just seven games remaining in the season for the Lumberjacks to climb into the top-seven in the standings to earn a Big Sky Championship berth, Thursday's victory was crucial for NAU.
"Playing as good as we did today, we know what we're capable of," Frost said. "We have to take into (Saturday) and know that we can win any game."
The Lumberjacks aim to make it two in a row on Saturday when they host Eastern Washington in the Skydome at 6:30 p.m.