Men’s hoops routed by Cougars in Classic
If the first annual Lumberjack Classic was supposed to be for the NAU men’s basketball team to put on a show, it certainly lived up to its expectations — for the opponent.
In front of 3,215 fans at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, the Lumberjacks were blown out by the Brigham Young (BYU) Cougars 87–52. The loss dropped the Jacks to 2–5 on the year while the Cougars moved to 5–2.
“Part of playing games like this is to help young guys, which we have, learn to grow when this [type of] situation presents itself,” said head coach Mike Adras. “We haven’t played a team like that and we were rattled. I think this will help us in future games, to prepare for Big Sky play.”
After the Jacks took the early advantage on two quick buckets, the Cougars turned on the heat and did not look back, scoring 15 straight points, holding NAU scoreless for over seven and a half minutes. Sophomore guard Michel Dunn sunk a three-pointer, cutting the deficit to seven with 9:55 left in the first half, but that was the closest the Jacks would get the rest of the half and the night. The Cougars shot 49 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep for the frame, led by guard Brock Zylstra’s 15 of his eventual 23, taking a 44–21 lead at the break. The Jacks also hurt themselves with turnovers, committing 16 in the half alone leading to 19 BYU points.
“I thought we came out very well, but I didn’t expect a drought like that,” Adras said. “But give them credit. I thought they stepped it up immediately after we came out like that.”
The second half did get somewhat better for the Classic hosts as they cut down their mistakes and found some more consistency, but still the Cougars continued to pour it on. The lead swelled to as much as 37 points for BYU behind the play of Zylstra and forward Brandon Davies. Davies netted 14 points and hauled down nine rebounds. But for much of the game, the NAU bigs were able to hold their own against a much more lauded BYU frontcourt consisting of Davies and forward Noah Hartstock.
“You’ve got to bring everything against these guys,” said junior forward Ephraim Ekanem. “Every game we’ve got to come out with the same effort, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing.”
NAU’s leading scorer was freshman guard Colin Gruber, who finished with 13 points including hitting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc on a night when poor shooting plagued the Jacks.
“Just executing our stuff is what gets you open,” Gruber said. “Guys setting good screens or just finding an open spot to hit the shot.”
Despite the game’s outcome, the NAU players were impressed with the spectacle itself earning praise from the athletes.
“It kind of had that big-game vibe,” Gruber said. “Hopefully we improve along the season and if we do have the chance to win the Big Sky and get to the tournament, we have a little taste of what it will hopefully be like.”