FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Despite a stellar all-around game from redshirt junior Olivia Lucero, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team was beat again in the second half en route to their fourth consecutive defeat Thursday night to Idaho State, 64-51. The 'Jacks allowed the Bengals to shoot 46.2 percent in the second while making just seven field goals themselves in falling to 2-8 in conference play. NAU now sits at 6-15 overall.
The Lumberjacks went into halftime tied at 27-27 following two free throws by senior Taylor Leyva, but the Bengals immediately scored the first seven points of the second half, which ultimately decided the game. Lucero finally broke a nearly five-minute scoring drought to start the second half with a long jumper to beat the shot clock, but the damage had already been done.
NAU was outscored 19-9 in the third quarter with all seven field goals coming in the paint. The third quarter was a microcosm of the entire game as Idaho State scored at will in the paint with 38 points to just 16 by NAU. The Bengals scored 24 points in the paint in the second half alone, matching the Lumberjacks' total second half output.
"Defense takes a lot of heart," Lucero said. "There were some 50-50 balls that we missed and that comes down to wanting the ball. We have what it takes defensively, we just have to bring it come game time. In practice we're all over each other and we hate when we score on each other. Personally I know I have to pick up my defensive game. We all have to be mentally ready."
Thursday marked the fifth time in six games that NAU has been outscored immediately out of halftime in the third quarter with the only exception being the Lumberjacks' last victory versus Eastern Washington on Jan. 19.
"We come out of halftime and have some defensive lapses where we lose sight of our player and we're not in help position," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "Sometimes we get a little too excited on defense and we lose sight of the ball. That needs to lead to defensive mistakes in the third quarter."
Lucero tied her season-high with 23 points and was the only Lumberjack in double-figures. She shot 8-for-15 from the field and also lead the team in rebounds (5), assists (4) and steals (5). Her five steals marked a season-high and tied for the most by any Lumberjack in a game this season.
NAU went more than six minutes to open the game without a point and trailed 10-2 before freshman Raina Perez helped ignite the stagnant Lumberjack offense with a pair of late threes which closed the gap to 15-12. Lucero then scored nine of her points in the second period to give NAU a lead on three occasions – the last being 23-22 with three minutes left in the first half.
Courtesy of its 7-0 run to open the second half, the Bengals led the remainder of the game although the Lumberjacks showed a flicker of hope with their own late 7-0 run in the fourth quarter. Freshman Va'e Malufau started the surge with a three-point play which brought the 'Jacks to 52-46 with 3:24 remaining, but they could not get any closer from there.
The Bengals hammered the Lumberjacks on the glass, 40-22, and handed NAU its worst rebounding margin of the season. Idaho State turned 13 offensive rebounds into a decisive 14-4 advantage in second chance points. Idaho State finished the game shooting 46 percent from the field compared to just 33.3 percent for NAU.
Sophomore Kaleigh Paplow was the next Lumberjack in the scoring column with nine points, but no other player had more than six. NAU also managed a plus-six margin in turnovers.
NAU wraps up its homestand with its annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration on Saturday versus Weber State at 6:30 p.m.