GREELEY, Colo. – All it took Thursday night was the first quarter. The Northern Arizona women's basketball team ended the first quarter down 14, and fought an uphill battle the rest of the game in an eventual 75-64 loss to Northern Colorado. The Lumberjacks fell to 6-13 overall and 2-6 in conference despite having four players in double-digit scoring.
"We found ourselves down early, but we started to chip away and we ended up winning the game by three after (the first quarter)," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "It's a matter of taking pride defensively. From an offensive point of view, we shot the ball well. Our offense right now is fine, but we are giving up too many open looks and not communicating the way we should on defense."
NAU shot the ball well – 42.1 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three – but defense let the Lumberjacks down for the second straight game. Northern Colorado – the Big Sky's last remaining unbeaten – shot 50 percent for the game and 45 percent from behind the arc. The Bears were above 53 percent in each of the first three quarters as they built a lead as large as 19.
Redshirt junior Olivia Lucero found her three-point stroke, knocking down three of NAU's eight three-pointers in the game, on her way to 16 points. She also added six rebounds and five assists to pace the Lumberjacks' four scorers in double-figures.
UNC finished the first quarter on a 12-0 run to hold a 21-7 advantage after 10 minutes. While Northern Colorado's 53.8 percent shooting hindered NAU, so did the Lumberjacks' poor start offensively as they made just two of their first 10 attempts from the floor.
NAU responded with 20 points each in the second and third quarter as the 'Jacks started to settle in offensively. A modest 6-0 run with three points each by sophomore Kaleigh Paplow and Lucero brought NAU within 28-20 with three and a half minutes left in the first half, but the Lumberjacks never got closer the rest of the game.
After shooting 35.7 percent in the first half, the 'Jacks shot 48.3 percent in the second half. Freshman Raina Perez scored a dozen of her 14 points after the intermission, but NAU's first quarter deficit was too much to overcome.
Behind Lucero and Perez, seniors Rene Coggins and Brittani Lusain each chipped in 10 points apiece. Lucero, Paplow and senior Taylor Leyva each grabbed at least five rebounds, but the Bears held the small edge on the glass, 34-31, overall.
Both teams struggled with turnovers; however the Bears made the most of their extra opportunities by turning 18 NAU turnovers into 17 points. The 'Jacks managed just eight points off of 16 UNC miscues.
The road trip does not get any easier for the Lumberjacks as they make the trek to Grand Forks, N.D. next to end the week. NAU will take on North Dakota – second in the Big Sky behind Northern Colorado – on Saturday at 1 p.m. Arizona time.