Lumberjacks routed by Grizzlies; skid hits 15
Looking forward to the opportunity to play spoiler in their final two games of the season, the NAU men’s basketball team did not start their road trip in good fashion as they were blown out by the Montana (UM) Grizzlies 78-60. The loss is the fifteenth straight for NAU; one of the longest active losing skids in the country.
A sluggish first half doomed the Jacks to another loss, as the Grizzlies pounced early and never let up. The Jacks committed early turnovers and found themselves in an early 9-2 hole mere minutes into the contest. UM eventually held leads of 22-7, 37-21 and 41-23 before finding themselves up 43-24 at the half. Despite falling behind early, the Lumberjacks cut the margin to nine at 26-17 after junior guard Gabe Rogers’ triple, but from there the Grizzlies pulled away. UM’s Derek Selvig led all scorers at the break with 11 on 5-of-6 shooting, while Mathias Ward added 10 for the Griz.
“We were a bit lackadaisical and got down,” said freshman forward Gaellan Bewernick. “We put our heads down a little bit.”
NAU was led by Rogers’ six points, while Bewernick and junior guard Stallon Saldivar hauled down four boards apiece. The Jacks shot a dismal 27 percent from the floor, but did hit three 3-pointers. NAU was dominated in the paint, outscored 20-8 in the middle in the first 20 minutes.
“We came out a little bit far,” Saldivar said. “They were knocking down threes, getting out in transition for easy buckets. They’re a really tough team to beat, especially in Missoula.”
The second half did not get any better for NAU as UM continued to show why they are one of the best teams in the conference. UM pushed their lead to as many as 27 late in the half with balanced scoring. Selvig finished with 19 points on the night, leading all scorers and four Grizzlies in double figures.
NAU could not overcome the talent and home court advantage that UM utilized. The Jacks outscored the Grizzlies by one point in the the second half and closed the game on a 9-0 run. Much of the second half effort was credited to junior guard Michael Dunn, who continues his breakout season.
“Mike is a monster with an unbelievable motor,” Saldivar said. “That really got us going there.”
Rogers finished as the Jacks’s leading scorer with 18 while senior forward Durrell Norman also hit double figures with 11. Saldivar also had a solid game, scoring only seven points but hauling down nine rebounds and dishing out three assists.
NAU once again shot poorly from the field, finishing with a 36 percent clip but had a solid game from downtown, making eight of their attempts from 3-point land.
“We did bounce back and gave them a ball game,” said interim head coach Dave Brown. “We just have to work harder working through to that 40 minute point.”
NAU will wrap up their season Monday night on the road at Montana State, with another chance to play spoiler, this time to potentially knock the Bobcats out of a conference tournament appearance.