Women’s hoops forces Nebraska to double overtime in loss
What could have been for the NAU Lumberjacks (5–5). Twice the score was tied with a shot to win it and twice the shot would not fall.
In their first game at home against a Big Ten opponent, the Lumberjacks pushed the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (9–1) to the brink before falling 97-88 in the second double overtime game in school history.
Head coach Laurie Kelly won’t be forgetting her 250th game for the Lumberjacks anytime soon.
“It came down to the fact that when we needed to make a play, we just weren’t able to do that,” Kelly said. “We had two shots to win it in regulation and overtime didn’t get either one to go.”
Both shots were taken by the Lumberjacks’ leading scorer, junior guard Amy Patton, but neither fell to give the Lumberjacks the win.
“I thought the looks she got were actually pretty good, she might have even got hit on the last one, there was a lot of contact there,” Kelly said. “I’ve seen her make big shots like that over and over in her career and today it didn’t drop.”
Patton struggled most of the night, shooting 5-of-22 from the field, including 1-of-7 from three. She finished the game with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“I mean it was bad that I didn’t make it, I feel bad,” Patton said. “It happens to everyone.”
The Lumberjacks trailed early in the game, falling behind by 13 with a little less than nine minutes remaining in the first half, following an 11–1 run by the Cornhuskers.
Through the first half, the Lumberjacks failed to hit open shots, shooting 28.6 percent for the half compared to the Cornhuskers 42.9 percent.
But a 7–0 Lumberjack run over the last 1:43 put the Cornhusker’s lead at 33-28 going into the break.
“I thought we battled back great. That run at the end of the first half was really key,” Kelly said. “We really had the momentum.”
And the players felt that momentum during the break.
“I don’t (think) we’ve ever been that pumped,” said sophomore forward Khyra Conerly.
It was a play by Conerly in the waning seconds of regulation that brought the crowd at Rolle Activity Center to their feet as they exploded in cheers.
With the Lumberjacks leading by one with 38 seconds left in the second half, Conerly stole the ball from Nebraska’s star point guard Lindsey Moore at midcourt and drove straight to the basket, laying it in through a pair of defenders and drawing the foul.
“My mindset was just to go full speed,” Conerly said. “I had to just go. I was focused.”
However, she failed to convert the free throw and the Cornhuskers quickly moved the ball down court and sophomore forward Jordan Hooper drilled a 3 to tie the game at 70 with 24 seconds left.
“We missed and then got caught up on (a) bad transition, we weren’t matched up,” Kelly said. “Then we gave up the 3 to tie the game there. I thought that was a really key play.”
Following two last-second missed shot attempts, one by Patton and one by Moore, the game moved to overtime.
Down 75–73 with 3:41 left in the first overtime, sophomore guard Amanda Frost triggered a stretch of a combined four straight 3s within a minute of each other.
Frost soon followed that up with another 3 to tie it at 81 with 1:33 left. The game was Frost’s best of her young Lumberjack career, hitting 9-of-15 from the field including 6-of-9 from 3-point range for a career-high 24 points, tying Patton’s Lumberjacks season high of 24 point game against UC Riverside.
“When I hit that first 3, the adrenaline just started going,” Frost said. “I hit a few more and started feeling like we really had this game.”
Unfortunately for the Lumberjacks, the effort fell just short as Nebraska quickly hit back to back 3s by Moore and Hooper to force a second overtime and escape their first ever trip to Flagstaff with a win.
The Cornhuskers relied on their stars late as Hooper and Moore combined for 11 of the final overtime’s 13 points.
Moore, an All-Big 12 honorable mention last season, shot 10-of-15 from the field and 9-of-13 from the line for 31 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Hooper, an All-Big 12 freshman last season, scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting which included 5-of-7 from three and added eight rebounds and four steals.
“There is a part of me that is really, really proud and then there is a part that is sad because we had it and just couldn’t it finish it,” Kelly said.
Despite the loss, the Lumberjacks knew they could take positives away from the game.
“If we play like this every game I feel like we can win the conference championship. Everybody contributed, the bench was amazing, the crowd was amazing,” said Patton. “If were like that all the time, I feel like it’s going be great.”
Frost agreed with Patton’s assessment.
“I think we are definitely pumped for every game that we have now,” Frost said. “We know that if we can push one of those top teams to double overtime we got the Big Sky, no doubt about it.”
The Lumberjacks close out non-conference play next week with a trip to Utah for games against Utah Valley on Dec. 17, who the Lumberjacks defeated 73-59 at home Nov. 23, and Utah State on Dec.19.