Men’s hoops drops eleventh straight
And the beat keeps on rolling for the NAU men’s basketball team.
Despite a spirited second half effort, the Lumberjacks could not find a way to rally from a 15-point halftime deficit, dropping their eleventh consecutive game 76-65 to the Portland State (PSU) Vikings. The loss keeps the Jacks in the cellar of the Big Sky Conference standings and eliminates all hope for a late season run into the postseason.
“We battled; we did some good things,” said interim head coach Dave Brown. “First half, we had some mental lapses. [PSU] had a surge for five or six minutes that we didn’t stop and we went to sleep.”
The two squads traded buckets early and the game was tied at 20 with around eight minutes left in the first half. From there, the Vikings took off on a 17-2 run, stretching their lead to 15 and never looking back. Michael Harthun notched 10 first half points to lead PSU while the Jacks got seven apiece from junior forward Ephraim Ekanem and freshman guard James Douglas. The teams were even on the boards in the first 20 minutes while NAU committed six more turnovers than PSU.
After the intermission, the Jacks and Vikings traded buckets, maintaining a steady pace while the Vikings maintained their double-digit advantage. However, the Lumberjacks broke out their full-court press to try and get the ball rolling in their favor and it seemed to work as they chipped the lead to as little as eight. However, that was as close as they would get as the Vikings got 15 points from Charles Odum down the stretch to close the contest out, sending the Jacks to a record losing streak.
“We fought hard the whole game and I was really pleased with my team’s effort,” said sophomore guard Michael Dunn, who finished with 11 points and seven boards. “It just seemed that we couldn’t get over that hump. Overall, [I am] pleased with the effort but you’re never satisfied with the loss.”
NAU was hammered in the paint as PSU’s trees outmatched and overwhelmed the home team, especially in the first half, when the visitors racked up 24 points in the middle. Most of the points came by way of easy paths to the rim and second chance opportunities. The emphasis on the inside presence the Vikings displayed was also compounded by the fact that both senior forward Durrell Norman and junior forward Max Jacobsen were out with back problems. Jacobsen’s injury has caused him to miss four straight games, while Norman was ruled out before the game against PSU.
“We let ourselves down and got in a little hole and couldn’t get out of it,” said freshman forward Gaellan Bewernick. “I took it upon myself I needed to step up; crashing the glass and being the old me I used to be now that Durrell is gone.”
The Jacks continue their home stand on Thursday against the BSC’s best team, the Weber State (WSU) Wildcats. WSU beat the Jacks in Ogden, Utah 81-67 on January 19 and boast NBA prospect Damian Lillard, who has been on a scoring tear recently.
“I think we can get him,” Bewernick said. “We played them tough at their home and we had them. At home, we’re a tough team and everybody knows that now.”