Improvement apparent, women’s basketball drop thirteenth straight road game
Another road game resulted in another loss for the NAU women’s basketball team, 62–54 to the Idaho State University Bengals (ISU) Thursday night, despite another strong performance against the Big Sky Conference’s (BSC) top team.
The Lumberjacks (7–17, 2–10 BSC) remained winless on the road this season, with their record falling to 0–13 away from Flagstaff.
However, unlike their past four road games which were lost by an average of 16 points, the Lumberjacks failed to break through in a tight game against the Bengals (18–6, 10–1 BSC).
“It’s like we’re right there, we just can’t seem to push through to finish that game by doing the little things,” said head coach Laurie Kelly. “And it really is the little things right now. It’s not a lack of talent, it’s not a lack of depth and it wasn’t a lack of energy or effort.”
A commonplace for NAU, it held an early lead at 4–2. But ISU pulled ahead with a pair of 3-pointers to make the score 12-6 and held the lead for the remainder of the game.
Unlike recent road losses to Eastern Washington and Portland State, the Lumberjacks trailed by single digits throughout the game rather than see the game fall out of reach.
“I thought tonight we had good effort, we were diving for loose balls, and we were playing aggressive defensively,” Kelly said. “I talk about the Jekyll and Hyde team, our road team and our home team. This team that showed up to play today played well, played defensively really well.”
NAU outshot ISU 55–47 and finished 38 percent from the field compared to ISU’s 34 percent.
The Bengals advantage came at the free throw line, where they hit 26-of-33 compared to the Lumberjacks 9-of-16, who were called for 24 fouls during the game to the Bengals’ 18.
“We gave up 62 total points, 26 of them came from the free throw line,” Kelly said. “In 5 on 5, they scored 36 points. We held them to 25 percent shooting in the 2nd half. Those are things you need to do to beat the best team in the league on the road.”
Despite the loss, the game could be seen as an improvement on the team’s performance.
“I think we did a really good job tonight, if we had just made our free throws and not fouled so much,” said junior guard Amy Patton, the Lumberjacks leading scorer. “I do feel like we are moving in the right direction.”
Patton scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field. The junior also grabbed the team-high seven rebounds and added three steals.
NAU trailed 33–28 at halftime with Patton and sophomore forward Trinidee Trice combined for 15 points as the duo took advantage of their given matchups.
Trice opened the game aggressively, scoring the team’s first basket. The sophomore forward often found herself open for midrange jumpers and finished with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting, despite averaging 5.6 points a game coming into the night’s game.
“Basketball is kind of weird. Sometimes you just feel like you’re on and sometimes you feel like you are off,” Trice said. “And tonight I just felt like I was on, so I was just going to make sure I shot the ball whenever I got a good look.”
Patton, the primary ball handler with senior point guard Caty Huntington out for the season, took advantage of the five-inch height difference between her and ISU junior point guard Kaela Oakes.
“Obviously her size is smaller than mine, so I could see over her, so I had to try to take advantage of that,” Patton said.
Despite the pair’s strong play, no other Lumberjack finished with double digit scoring. The other three starters finished the game 3-of-14 with seven points combined, and NAU could not overcome the free throw differential.
“You can go through that game and easily find eight points that you can get back,” Kelly said. “Whether making more free throws, taking an offensive rebound and putback away from them, or not fouling one of those calls where it gave them free points from the free throw line.”
The Lumberjacks will travel to face the conference’s last place Weber State Wildcats (2-22, 0-11 BSC) on Feb. 11. The Wildcats are currently on a 14 game losing streak.
“We have got to learn and grow as a team, we’ve got to stay together and we need to get a road win against Weber State,” Kelly said. “Looking forward, we can build off some good things we did against Idaho State.”