Women's Hoops Needs Sweep in Montana for Big Sky Bid
Opponent: Montana State (Thursday, March 6/7:00 p.m.)
Location: Bozeman, Mont.
Live Stats: www.msubobcats.com
Opponent: Montana (Saturday, March 8/2:00 p.m.)
Location: Missoula, Mont.
Live Stats: www.gogriz.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Northern Arizona women's basketball team hits the road for the final time this season, heading to the state of Montana needing a sweep and some help to get into the position for the final spot in the Big Sky Championships. The Lumberjacks will play at Montana State on Thursday and at Montana on Saturday in the final week of the regular season, currently two wins outside the top-seven qualifying teams.
The Lumberjacks concluded their home schedule last week with a pair of losses by a combined eight points. Senior Amanda Frost became the 14th player in school history to eclipse 1,000 career points, doing so on Senior Night versus Weber State, while junior Raven Anderson continued to impressive play inside resetting her career-high scoring total for the third consecutive outing with three straight 20-point games.
Series History: The Lumberjacks opened up Big Sky play, and the 2014 calendar year, with Montana and Montana State. On Jan. 2, NAU began conference play with an 87-67 loss to the Lady Griz of Montana. Montana's 18-0 run in the first half gave them a 32-6 lead with seven and a half minutes left in the first half and they led 45-19 at halftime. The Lumberjacks finished the game by scoring 22 of the final 24 points to cut the deficit from 40 to the final margin of 20. Amanda Frost led NAU with 24 points and freshman Rene Coggins scored a career-high 16 as both hit four threes. Montana shot 56.1 percent for the game while NAU shot 37.9 percent and UM also held a 43-31 rebounding advantage. Since their last win in Missoula during the which was an upset of the top-seeded Lady Griz in the Big Sky semifinals in 2007, the Lumberjacks have lost nine of the last 11, six away from home and trail 48-11 all-time.
NAU fell to Montana State on Jan. 4, 80-72, as the Bobcats withstood a late rally by the Lumberjacks. Leading by three at halftime, MSU used a 10-0 run to turn a two-point lead into a 54-42 advantage and it led by as much as 14 with seven mintues to play. Frost and freshman Brittani Lusain combined for 21 points over the next five minutes which brought NAU with four at 72-68 with 1:58 remaining but ultimately came up short. Neither team shot well with the Bobcats holding a 41.4-33.9 percent edge from the field, but the Lumberjacks shot 30-for-34 from the free-throw line. Lusain collected 13 rebounds to go along with 16 points and Frost put together a 27-point game. NAU has lost the last eight games to Montana State and trails the all-time series, 38-21.
Audio Coverage: Both of this week's games will have a live audio stream of the game available via Stretch Internet. Assistant Director for Athletics Communications Stayson Isobe will handle play-by-play duties with a pregame show beginning 20 minutes prior to tipoff (6:40 p.m. on Thursday, 1:40 p.m. on Saturday). The stream can be found here.
Coach Sue Darling Quote of the Week: "We're disappointed about last weekend at home with the close games that we dropped. There's still hope to make the playoffs and we definitely have to win two games on the road and get some help from some other teams. It's March, it's the time of year where madness happens and that's what we're banking on. But at the end of the day, we have to play better basketball and win a couple of games."
About Montana State (13-14, 8-10 Big Sky): Montana State is currently holding onto the coveted seventh-spot in the Big Sky standings even after a 72-65 loss at home to Montana on Monday. The Bobcats, 8-10 in conference, and Northern Colorado are tied in the win column for seventh, two wins ahead of the Lumberjacks. Montana State began the conference season 6-1, but has since dropped nine of its last 11 games.
The Bobcats are fourth in the conference in scoring at 72.0 points per game, right below the Lumberjacks, and they are the best in defending the three-point line at just 28.8 percent. Sophomore Jasmine Hommes leads the Bobcats with 13.4 points per game and she scored 17 in MSU's win in Flagstaff in January. Senior Ashley Brumwell averages 13.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds. Junior Jackie Elliott posted 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals versus NAU.
About Montana (18-9, 12-6 Big Sky): After its victory on the road over Montana State on Monday, Montana remain in third place in the conference standings and it has already secured a tournament bid. The Lady Griz have played its last four games on the road, splitting 2-2, and returns home where they are 12-1 this season and a perfect 8-0 in league play. Their lone home loss was to Temple back on Dec. 14.
The Lady Griz average just 67.4 points per game, eighth in the Big Sky, but allow a conference-low 61.7 points per game with the Big Sky's best field goal defense at 37.1 percent. They also turn the ball over a conference-best 12.9 times a game. Junior Kellie Cole poured in 25 points against the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff, knocking down all five of her three-pointers, and leads Montana with 14.0 points per game, seventh-best in the conference. Senior Torry Hill is second in the conference in assists and she dished out 14 assists verus the Lumberjacks earlier this season. Junior Carly Selvig leads the Big Sky with 2.8 blocks per game.
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