Saldivar leads Jacks to upset of Sun Devils
The last time the NAU men’s basketball team traveled to Tempe, Ariz. to take on the ASU Sun Devils was the 2006-07 season, where they walked out with a win.
Five years later, history repeated itself.
Junior point guard Stallon Saldivar capped off a career day by draining a scintillating 3-pointer from well beyond-the-arc with under a second left, giving his team a 69-68 upset victory over the Sun Devils in front of 4738 at Wells Fargo Arena.
With the win, the Jacks improved to 4-7 on the year while the Sun Devils fell to 4-6. It was also the first road win for NAU on the year.
“They were really breaking us down at times, but we stayed with it,” said interim head coach Dave Brown. “It was a matter of our young men believing, and as a result, we got the big one.”
Saldivar’s game-winning shot was only the end of a big day for the Salt Lake City native, as he finished with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including a 6-of-8 mark from distance. The junior also finished with nine assists and made all four of his attempts from the charity stripe, all while playing the entire game. He was also helped out by freshman guard James Douglas’ 18 points, 12 of which came in the first half, and by senior forward Durrell Norman’s 16.
“It’s a winning streak for us; the morale is unreal in that locker room,” Saldivar said. “Its been a hell of a week. Proud of teammates, proud of everybody.”
The game itself was also compelling, producing back-and-forth action through. Despite their considerable size and talent advantages, ASU had trouble putting NAU away. The largest lead the Sun Devils attained was eight, which came in the first half. The Sun Devils held multiple six- and seven-point advantages through the second half, but slowed down offensively down the stretch, allowing the Jacks to slowly crawl back into it. NAU only held a lead twice in the game, both times by one point and both times in the first 20 minutes.
After a Keala King lay-up put the Sun Devils ahead 63-57 with 3:29 to play, Douglas sunk a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three. King then followed with a turnover leading to a quick bucket by junior guard Gabe Rogers, making his return after a two-month absence due to a shoulder injury. Another key shot by Rogers brought the Jacks to within one with 20 seconds remaining before the Jacks fouled ASU guard Trent Lockett, sending him to the line. Lockett split the two attempts, giving the Jacks a chance and allowing Saldivar to send the blue and gold home with a big-time win.
“We can put our name in the history books, beating a Pac-12 team,” Rogers said. “That hasn’t been done at this school in quite some time now.”
Brown moved to 2-0 since taking over for Mike Adras Dec. 9, but it is keen to note that the story should not revolve around him, but the players.
“This really isn’t about me,” Brown said. “It’s about young men; it’s about a university and it’s a privlege for me to be a part of that and it’s an honor to represent our university.”
Statistically, the Lumberjacks were able to hang with the Sun Devils in nearly every major category, including rebounds and assists while having more success at the free throw line and committing five fewer turnovers. Only six of the 11 players who took the floor for NAU scored points, with Saldivar, Douglas and Norman accounting for 58 of the 69 points.
NAU now looks to build off the program-boosting win by traveling to Sam Houston State on Dec. 20 before beginning Big Sky play on Dec. 29 against Sacramento State.