Lucero Drops 27 Points as NAU Falls to Weber State, 75-64

Olivia Lucero (Photo by David Patten)
Olivia Lucero (Photo by David Patten)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Redshirt junior Olivia Lucero and sophomore Kaleigh Paplow terrorized Weber State early and provided the Northern Arizona women's basketball team with a first quarter lead that would not hold as the Wildcats came back to win, 75-64, Saturday night in the Walkup Skydome. Lucero finished with 27 points – the most by a Lumberjack this season in the loss as NAU fell to 6-16 overall.

"The effort was a lot better tonight, but I would've liked to have seen a more consistent effort through 40 minutes," said interim head coach Robyne Bostick. "I liked the way we rebounded, especially in the first quarter, so it was nice to see us bounce back in that area. It was nice to see Olivia Lucero come out and have another good game for us, but we just need others to step up as well."

Lucero was a plus for the Lumberjacks for the second game in a row as she knocked down 10-of-18 from the field, including a pair of triples, on her way to her season-high total. Coupled with her 23-point performance on Thursday, she is also the first player this season to record back-to-back 20 point games. She now has a team-high four such games. She also posted seven rebounds.

Paplow picked up her third career double-double, and first of the season, with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Her 11 boards were a season-high and helped NAU to a 47-38 rebounding advantage. The Lumberjacks posted 16 offensive boards which led to a 15-4 edge in second chance points. The 47 rebounds were the Lumberjacks' highest total since Nov. 28 and occurred just two nights after they were outrebounded by a season-worst 18 by Idaho State on Thursday.

Still, the Lumberjacks dropped to 2-9 in conference play with their season-worst fifth straight loss as they let a 22-16 first quarter lead slip away gradually. The 'Jacks used threes by senior Rene Coggins and Paplow during an 8-0 run that provided them with their largest lead of the game, 17-11, with 2:34 left in the first. Paplow and Lucero combined for 17 of NAU's 22 first period points.

NAU still found itself ahead until the final minute of the first half when Weber State connected on a three – the Wildcats' eighth from behind the arc – to go into the break up, 37-36. Then as has been the case all season, the Lumberjacks struggled out of the second half gates with the Wildcats pulling ahead in the third quarter.

Although they made just 5-of-17 in the third quarter, the Wildcats managed to outscore the Lumberjacks by eight due to their ability to get to the free throw line where they made all six of their attempts. The third quarter set the stage for the entire half as Weber State shot 19 free throws to just eight by NAU following halftime. The Lumberjacks then could not get closer than nine throughout the entirety of the fourth quarter.

Weber State finished 14-of-24 at the line compared to just 6-for-10 by NAU in the game. The Wildcats also turned the ball over just twice after committing five turnovers in the first quarter to offset a relatively clean game by the 'Jacks. NAU turned it over just 12 times.

NAU struggled from behind the arc making just 1-of-11 after the first quarter, while Weber State blitzed NAU with 11 threes of its own. The Wildcats also scored 13 points in transition while shutting the 'Jacks out in that category to help overcome NAU's massive advantage on the glass.

Seniors Taylor Leyva and Bradlee Cotton helped contribute to NAU's strong rebounding total with a combined 13 rebounds between them.

The Lumberjacks will now head out to Montana State next Thursday and Montana on Saturday before playing their final three home games to close out the month of February.