Men’s hoops tops Mustangs in exhibition
For an exhibition match-up it was not perfect, but the NAU men’s basketball team walked away with a 93–71 victory over the Western New Mexico (WNM) Mustangs Nov. 2.
“I thought at times we had pretty good intensity and at other times we had tremendous lapses of what we are trying to do,” said head coach Mike Adras. “But for the first time out, scoring 90 points, I’m happy about that. There’s a lot of things that we can say ‘That’s what we want to do, and that’s not what we want to do.’ It’s no more or less than that.”
The Jacks were paced offensively by junior transfer forward Ephraim Ekanem playing his first game as a member of the program. The six-foot, seven-inch forward originally from Chino, Calif., was a key player in the paint scoring 16 points and hitting the glass for 10 boards to reach the double-double mark.
“It felt good to come out for the first time and get a double-double,” Ekanem said. “Rebounding is the most important thing we do, so that was my main goal coming out. It was a good way to start.”
After a 3-pointer by WNM swingman Lucio Luttrell brought the score to 22–16 midway through the first half, NAU went on a 12–0 run, stretching the lead to 18 with 5:30 to play in the frame. The lead jumped to as many as 21 points before the half ended.
The Mustangs made things interesting coming out of the break. But, a monster throw-down by freshman guard James Douglas at the 10:34 mark brought the Lumberjacks out of their funk while controlling the rest of the game.
Douglas finished with 15 points off the bench and sophomore forward Max Jacobsen recorded 10 points on the night. Junior point guard Stallon Saldivar racked up 7 points while also dishing five assists and led the Jacks with 23 minutes played.
Making the adjustment
There will be a transition period with this squad after losing five seniors to graduation and implementing new faces to the program and system. Adras noted some of the new guys were jittery early and not exactly in-tune.
“I thought some guys were very nervous out there and you could see it,” Adras said. “Hopefully that now dissipates. I don’t know how you can’t be [nervous] playing your first college basketball game. That’s the growing we’re going to have to try and get through as the season progresses.”
Jacobsen, junior guard Jywrell Wilson and freshman guards Colin Gruber and Danny Cheek are expected to fill some of the holes leftover from last year’s team.
The Lumberjacks won, but were plagued with turnover problems. NAU gave away the ball 21 times but were able to overcome that anomaly with their consistent offense and that WNM was not able to capitalize on the turnovers, only scoring 13 points off them. Conversely, the Mustangs turned the ball over 20 times leading to 30 points off giveaways by the Lumberjacks.
Coming up next
Games will start counting for the Lumberjacks next weekend when they travel to San Francisco to take part in the Hilltop Challenge Nov. 11–13. NAU will battle Louisiana-Lafayette, San Francisco and North Dakota State before returning to Flagstaff to tangle with Arizona Christian Nov. 18.