Women’s basketball cruises past Sacramento State with record-setting half
By their own coach’s admission, the NAU women’s basketball team faced a must-win situation Saturday night at Rolle Activity Center against the Sacramento State Hornets.
The team’s response could not have been more emphatic, as the Lumberjacks (7–14, 2–7 Big Sky Conference) broke the school record for points scored in a half and cruised to their largest win of the year, 94–56, over the Hornets (8–14, 3–6 BSC).
“To me it was a team you had to beat . . . We did what we needed to do tonight,” said head coach Laurie Kelly. “We all know we are climbing uphill right now, and it’s essential that we don’t give any games away.”
The Lumberjacks scored a record 59 points in the opening half on 54.2 percent shooting from the field and jumped out to a 35 point lead against the Hornets, who shot only 31.3 percent from the field, in the opening half.
The previous record for points in a half was 58 against Idaho State University (ISU) on Jan. 24, 2008.
“We were hitting everything and it feels really good to be like we are playing team ball,” said junior shooting guard Amy Patton, who scored 14 points and secured eight rebounds. “Everything was going right for us.”
After scoring 44 in its previous game against ISU, NAU equaled that total in less than 16 minutes against a Sacramento State defense that allowed 80.5 points per game coming in, the third worst in the nation.
“The first half was great basketball, we ran a lot of good defense and it led to offense,” Kelly said. “We’re a talented team, if we kind of feed of everyone’s strengths.”
NAU jumped out to a 20–6 lead in less than five minutes, similar to the 20-3 lead it held in Sacramento a month ago.
Rather than allow Sacramento State to rally back and eventually take the lead early in the second half, as it did in their first meeting, NAU put the game out of reach before halftime and closed the opening half with a 10–0 run.
“We were up 20–3 at their place and then we let them come back. We missed free throws and gave up a three to lose in double overtime,” Kelly said. “That one really hurt and looking at where you are in the standings; you really wish you had that one back.”
The second half became a formality for a Lumberjack victory, as their lead never fell below 30, and even reached as high as 42.
“We got the first one stolen from us, so we had to prove that the first one was let go,” said junior small forward Tyler Stephens-Jenkins, who led the Lumberjacks with 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting. “We didn’t want the same thing coming back.”
With the game out of reach for the Hornets, the whole Lumberjack roster of 15 women earned minutes and 12 of them scored, seven winding up with seven or more points.
Relaxed with the victory in hand, the core of the rotation rested on the bench late in the game, but kept up the energy and support for those on the court.
“When things go right, the team has a lot more fun,” Patton said. “The bench [was] really into it, we were all jumping up and down. It is definitely a lot more fun when you’re winning.”
With the win, the Lumberjacks close out their three-game homestand with a 2–1 record and now face four consecutive road games, where they remain winless on the season.
“You know we started out bad, 1–7; we got to try to be 7–1 in the second half,” Kelly said. “We really need to be that good. This feels good, but it’s so far from where we want to be.”
NAU begins the road stretch Feb. 2 in Cheney, Wash. for a game against Eastern Washington University and then to Portland State University for a game Feb. 4.