Women’s hoops splits opening weekend
By Cody Bashore
With defending Big Sky scoring champion junior guard Amy Patton leading the way, the Lumberjacks (1–1) won their regular season home opener against the UC Riverside Highlanders (0–2) 67–59 Sunday afternoon to split their pair of weekend games.
Patton, who averaged 16.4 points a game last year as a sophomore, led the game with 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. The junior shot 7-of-18 from the field overall, but hit 4-of-7 threes and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line.
“She (Coach Laurie Kelly) told me to just keep going in and make rebounding a focus,” said Patton. “And that’s what I did this game. A lot of them did just suck into my hands, but I’ll take it.”
The Lumberjacks jumped out to an early 15–4 lead, capped off by a three-pointer from sophomore guard Amanda Frost eight minutes into the game. During the stretch, the Highlanders only made two of their first 14 shots.
“I felt like we did, particularly in the first half, a great job defensively,” said Kelly. “Really taking them out of what they wanted to do. We held them to 21 points.”
The Lumberjacks held a 31–21 lead at the half and maintained a comfortable margin until midway through the second frame.
With 7:11 to go in the game, the Highlanders closed the lead to 42–40, but a trio of returning Lumberjacks pushed the lead back to 10 within a minute.
Patton hit a three, sophomore Khyra Conerly stole the ball and drove for an easy layup on the ensuing possession and senior Katie Pratt hit a three-pointer to total an 8–0 run.
“I think it is just a credit to our veteran players,” said Kelly. “I talk constantly about basketball being a game of runs. Someone is going to come back and how quickly you can respond to that and how quickly you can turn the tables is going to be key to the game.”
Soon after the Lumberjacks’ run, Highlanders’ coach John Margaritis picked up his second technical foul for arguing with the officials and was ejected with a little more than five minutes remaining with his team down 50-42.
From then on, the Lumberjacks’ lead never fell below eight in route to the victory.
“I thought the second technical was kind of a turning point for us, I really felt like we really pulled away then,” said Kelly. “It can always go the other way too, I always say.”
Pratt finished the game 2-of-6 from the field, but hit 6-of-8 from the line for 11 points and added 5 rebounds. Conerly finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
The Lumberjacks’ win was a solid way to bounce back from an 84–60 loss in their season opener to the Colorado Buffalos in Boulder, Colo. last Friday night.
Colorado, a newcomer to the Pac-12 Conference, dominated from the opening tip, taking an 18–2 lead through the game’s first five minutes. The Buffalos followed with 15 unanswered points during a six minute stretch to push their lead 36–9.
The Lumberjacks went on to outscore the Buffalos through the game’s final 23 minutes. After a 7–0 run during the final three minutes of the first, NAU doubled their first half point total with 40 second-half points.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and played better team basketball,” said Kelly. “I think we learned more about what we needed to focus on more than anything else. It was a good challenge for us; I thought we learned a lot.”
Colorado’s dominate runs in the first half were aided by NAU’s failure to hold onto the ball. The Lumberjacks totaled 17 turnovers in the first half and finished with 27 for the game.
Nine of the 27 turnovers were credited to Patton. However, she did score 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting and grabbed a team high 6 rebounds.
Frost continued to show off her solid shooting from outside. After struggling in the first half and only shooting 2-of-9 from the field, she bounced back with the rest of the team in the second and hit 4-of-7 from three. Frost led the Lumberjacks with 18 points and added three steals.
Colorado freshman and Paradise Valley, Ariz. native Lexy Kresl, hit 5-of-6 threes in the first half, tying a Colorado record for threes in a half. She finished with 15 points and was held scoreless in the second half.
The Buffalos, as a team, spread out the scoring with six players tallying eight points or more. Sophomore Brittany Wilson led Colorado with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from the line.
The Lumberjacks have a quick turnaround as their next game is Tuesday night, 6:35 p.m. at Rolle Activity Center as they host Adams State. The game will be the third in five days for NAU.