Rogers’ big game in the second half propels Jacks to 86-78 win over Adams State
By Kevin Bertram
Down 57-45 to the visiting Division-II Adams State University Grizzlies with only 11:39 remaining in the game, things were not looking rosy for the Jacks.
Senior guard Gabe Rogers, who scored 29 in a win over Haskell a week ago, was struggling to find his shot along with the rest of his teammates, and the Grizzlies — seeming to smell an exhibition upset of a Division-I program there for the taking — were playing with feverish energy, hitting shots as often as their players hit the floor.
Rogers’ solution was simple: keep on shooting.
“I saw the team really needed a lift, so I just stepped in and started playing harder,” Rogers said.
Just when it looked like Adams State was primed to pull away, the bombardment started. First, at the 10:49 mark, a 3-point shot from Rogers. Another from freshman guard DeWayne Russell. A 3-point shot from sophomore forward Gaellan Bewernick. One more from Rogers. Senior guard Stallon Saldivar lead the fast break, over-and-over again, converting Grizzlies’ misses into easy baskets.
For the second straight game, head coach Jack Murphy had great praise for Rogers.
“Gabe’s one of the best shooters in the country,” Murphy said. “If we stick with him through most games, he will get it going. Tonight, we were fortunate that he had a great second half — and another great game overall.”
Only a few minutes later, the Jacks — courtesy of a 25-3 run — found themselves in possession of a 73-65 lead. It would be one they would hold through the rest of the game to win it over Adams State, 86-78.
Murphy attributed the huge run to the Jacks stepping it up on defense.
“We kept our focus on defense,” Murphy said. “We wanted our focus to be on defense and rebounding, and once we got stops, we were able to get out on the break and get open looks.”
For the second straight game, Rogers led all scorers, scoring 16 in the second half alone and ending with 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting, six-of-11 from behind the arc. He also had six rebounds and five assists.
Senior guard Michael Dunn, who had helped the Jacks remain in striking distance with his defense, pitched in 14 points and three steals. Russell had 11 points and six assists.
Junior forward Norvell Arnold led the Grizzlies with 18 points on six-of-13 shooting.
In the first half, the Grizzlies seemed to catch the Jacks off-guard a bit with their overall intensity, jumping out to a 10-point lead at the 12:45 mark. Behind the defensive play of Russell and Dunn, though, the Jacks were able to cut that deficit to three entering the half.
With 2:14 left in the opening half, Russell fired up the crowd when he crossed a Grizzlies’ defender over, drove past him and placed an assist right into the hands of freshman center Nick Wahl, who scored his first two points as a Lumberjack.
Murphy said the team will learn from their experiences in the exhibition, particular as concerns dealing with pressuring defenses and early deficits.
“We’re a very good offensive team . . . but their pressure bothered us in the first half,” Murphy said. “For us to handle the pressure in the first half and get to the junction where we could go on that big run was great for morale and our team’s experience moving forward.”
The Jacks shot 45 percent from the field for the game to go along with 45 percent from the 3-point line, with ten total makes as a team. They also out-rebounded the Grizzlies 46-40.
NAU plays its next game on the road against Oregon on Nov. 10. The Jacks will not return to Flagstaff for a game until their planned opener in the Walkup Skydome on Dec. 1 against Sam Houston State.