FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – As hard as everyone across the country was hitting the web for sales on Cyber Monday, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team hit the glass and then some in their 70-49 victory over Youngstown State Monday night in the Rolle Activity Center. The Lumberjacks destroyed the Penguins on the boards, 51-29, and righted the ship in the turnover column to snap their three-game losing skid and even their season record to 3-3.
"We knew coming into this game that keeping our turnovers low and outrebounding them were going to be the keys," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "Our practices have been competitive and we know we didn't play the way we wanted to last week. We came back with three competitive practices and wanted to carry that over into tonight's game."
Fifteen of NAU's 51 rebounds came on the offensive end, while the 'Jacks did an exceptional job at limiting Youngstown State – 21 game winners in each of the last two seasons – to just one shot. The Penguins had just three offensive rebounds, a disparity that led to a 19-4 edge in second chance points in favor of NAU.
Five Lumberjacks posted at least five rebounds led by 11 from senior Brittani Lusain, nine from redshirt junior Olivia Lucero and eight from senior Taylor Leyva. It marked the fourth time in six games that NAU won the rebounding battle and the plus-22 margin was the largest against a Division I opponent since the Lumberjacks were plus-27 versus Portland State on Jan. 3, 2015.
"Rebounding was one of the things we've been focusing on and we just went out and did it," said senior Bradlee Cotton, who herself grabbed a career-high tying six boards. "Rebounding takes a lot of heart and effort. We work hard and we know that when we want it, we can go get it."
Lucero paced the Lumberjacks with her first 20-point game, scoring a game-high 23 points. Senior Rene Coggins and Cotton both recorded 10 points, with Cotton setting a new career-high total with her first career double-digit scoring performance.
After leading by five, 18-13, following the opening 10 minutes, the Lumberjacks busted the game open with a rapid 10-0 run to start the second quarter. Lucero and freshman Raina Perez each contributed five points during the surge that provided NAU with what would turn out to be an insurmountable advantage.
Youngstown State held just one lead in the game at 5-3, and the Penguins never got closer than six the rest of the game. The visitors got within 41-35 with 6:33 left in the third quarter, but an ensuing 6-0 run pushed the Lumberjack lead back out to double-digits. The Penguins remained in striking distance into the fourth quarter though, but ultimately were outscored 14-3 in the final eight minutes of the game.
NAU shot 42.4 percent in the second half – and 50 percent in the final 10 minutes – to put the game out of reach. The 'Jacks finished the game a shade under 40 percent at 39.7 percent and made the most of their opportunities at the line making 9-of-10. Meanwhile, Youngstown State had averaged 93 points in its last two games, but shot only 32.1 percent for the evening in its lowest scoring game of the season.
The Lumberjacks only turned the ball over 10 times after averaging 20.3 turnovers over their losing streak. NAU also commanded the paint with 34 points to Youngstown State's 14, and shut out the Penguins in transition, 12-0.
"Tonight was huge," Bostick said. "It's unusual to be at home for almost three weeks, and we want to play well at home and defend our home court. We're comfortable here, so it was good for us to start this homestand with a win."
The Lumberjacks will move into the Walkup Skydome for the first time this season on Thursday for their annual Field Trip Day game versus CSUN. The early matinee tip-off is 11 a.m. in the second of four consecutive home games.