Men’s hoops starts season on sour note
The NAU men’s basketball team’s 2011-12 season is off to a rocky start.
The Lumberjacks dropped all three games in the 2011 Hilltop Challenge, falling to the Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) Rajin’ Cajuns, San Francisco (USF) Dons and North Dakota State (NDSU) Bison by scores of 83-66, 69-50 and 70-59, respectively. NAU is off to its first 0-3 start since the 1990-91 season.
The Jacks were behind at halftime in all three games and dealt with inconsistent performances throughout the weekend. Against ULL, NAU was down as many as 21 points. While facing the Dons, the Jacks shot a mere 24 percent from the floor in the second frame and fouled the Challenge hosts 18 times resulting in 24 free throw tries. Taking on NDSU in the Challenge’s final day, the Jacks trailed by 21 in the first but outscored the Bison by nine in the second half, making the final margin more respectable.
“We have to learn how to dictate tempo, both offensively and defensively,” said head coach Mike Adras. “Right now we’re out there playing like its up-and-down, up-and-down rec ball and you’re not going to win that way. Those teams were organized and presented different challenges.”
One glaring issue that the Jacks cited as the most looming obstacle was not controlling the other teams’ spurts. The Rajin’ Cajuns and Dons both began their contests with big runs while the Bison made 75 percent of their shots in the first half, leading to their big advantage at the break.
“The biggest problem was we didn’t know how to stop the other teams’ run,” Adras said. “Basketball is a game of runs. You’ve got to be able to put a Band-Aid on the bleeding right way or it compounds quickly in this sport. We didn’t do that once in three games. All of a sudden, they just got away from us.”
But the players recognize that it is still early in the season and that there is plenty of basketball left to get the new faces in tune with the system.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of growing to do,” said junior point guard Stallon Saldivar. “We’re still young, we’re still to(?) NCAA basketball a lot of these guys. It’s so hard to judge yourself off three games early in the season.”
Junior guard Gabe Rogers is still out with a shoulder injury he suffered in a mid-October practice. Rogers had surgery on his labrum to repair the damage and was expected to be out at least eight weeks.
“I’m meeting with the doctor next Tuesday so he will give me a better understanding of what it’s going to take for me to come back,” Rogers said. “Right now my shoulder feels good. I started rehab about a week after surgery.”
With the eight week time frame, Rogers would have been able to come back around the second week of December, but a more specific timetable for his return has yet to be set. He is still expected to miss two major games on the schedule — vs. Brigham Young in Prescott on Nov. 30 and vs. Arizona on Dec. 3 in Tucson.
Coming up next
Following the unceremonious welcome to this season, the Lumberjacks look to get back on track this Friday night when they take on Arizona Christian in the Rolle Activity Center. ACU, formerly Southwestern College, has undergone a complete transformation and rebranded itself under a new name, mascot and school colors. The Jacks beat ACU last year 97-47 in Rolle with Saldivar scoring seven points and dishing out seven assists and senior swingman Durrell Norman chipped in eight boards.