Junior Max Jacobsen has been one of the surprising contributors for the Northern Arizona men's basketball team midway into the season. On Saturday, he plays in his home state against his original school when the Lumberjacks face off against Portland State at 8:35 p.m. Arizona time at the Stott Center in downtown Portland.
"It always feels good to go home and play in front of my family," said Jacobsen, who is averaging 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds this season. "They are all going to be there so I am really looking forward to that."
Jacobsen originally signed with Portland State out of Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School. After redshirting his first season, Jacobsen transferred to Clackamas Community College. He scored 20.8 points per game with 8.0 rebounds per contest, earning a scholarship to NAU and a second chance in the Big Sky. After seeing action in only 17 games last season while dealing with injuries, he has seen an emergence in his game under Head Coach Jack Murphy and his staff.
"He has been fantastic," Murphy said "He is shooting at a high percentage and is second in the conference in field goal percentage. We need to do a better job of getting Max more opportunities, especially scoring chances. He has been great for us."
Jacobsen opened the season with a career-high 10 points against Oregon in Eugene. He has posted six games in double digits on the season, including his first career double-double against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 5.
He followed that performance with a career-high 22 points against Montana State in the Big Sky Conference opener.
"He has had a heck of a year," said senior guard Stallon Saldivar. "He is a big presence down there and gives us an option in the post. He has been boarding really well which has been great for us. His production level has been very high and he brings it every day."
Jacobsen, who has scored in 14 of 15 games this season, credits the improvement this season to his offseason work in the weight room. New NCAA regulations allowed student-athletes to stay on campus this summer, providing time to work with their coaches and the strength staff.
"A lot of it was the offseason," Jacobsen said. "We worked really hard and we were here all summer. It allowed us to get in with our strength coach Cody Hodgeson and he really pushed us hard this summer."
The Lumberjacks enter the game against the Vikings on a two-game losing streak and have lost five of the last six games to drop to 5-10 and 2-3 in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State joins the Lumberjacks in a four-way tie for fifth place in the standings at 2-3, setting the stage for an important game.
The game will be broadcast on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and online on the Big Talker website and The Big Talker mobile app. The game can also be seen on Big Sky TV.
Winners of two straight games, the NAU women's basketball team (3-10, 2-2 Big Sky) returns to action tonight hosting Portland State (7-7, 1-4 Big Sky) at 6:35 p.m. in the Walkup Skydome. The Lumberjacks scored a dominant 83-68 win over Eastern Washington on Thursday night in their first game in the Skydome since March 6, 2010.
"It's important to win home games so it was important to win (on Thursday) and obviously we want to build on it," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "Portland State has a quality team. They're athletic and they have a very good post player so we will absolutely have to have 40 minutes of effort. I think our team is coming along and it's going to start with our defensive rebounding again."
Tonight is Youth Basketball Night in the Skydome as all youth (12 & younger) will get in free when they wear their youth basketball jersey to the game. The game will follow the Lumberjack Team Challenge indoor track and field meet in the dome and all fans who present a ticket from the meet will get into the basketball game for free.
The Lumberjacks have played superb team basketball in winning their last two games, with Thursday's victory coming after a 71-61 win at Southern Utah last week. NAU has shot 47.8 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from 3-point range over the last two games while holding its opponents to 36.1 percent shooting and a 23.7 percent mark from long range.
The winning streak is due in large part to the return of junior Amanda Frost, who has averaged 19.5 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 57.1 percent from the field during the two games -- her first games of the season. Amy Patton has averaged a double-double with 20.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the two games while Paige Haynes, Aubrey Davis, Raven Anderson, and Tyler-Stephens-Jenkins are all contributing 7.5 or more points per game
Portland State lost at Sacramento State, 81-77, on Thursday night to drop to 1-4 in conference play with its only win coming against Weber State, which is 0-13 this season. Senior guard Courtney VanBrocklin ranks second in the Big Sky -- behind Patton -- with 15.8 points per game while also ranking second in the league in shooting 48.9 percent from 3-point range. Junior Angela Misa is second in the conference with 10.6 rebounds per game while averaging 10.4 points.
The Vikings returned four starters this year after finishing 7-9 in the Big Sky last season but lost junior Kate Lanz, the 2011-12 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, to a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago. The team started the 2012-13 season 5-1, including a double-overtime win at Oregon, but has lost six of its last eight contests through the start of conference play. Northern Arizona is 19-16 all-time against Portland State including a 12-5 record in Flagstaff but has lost its last five meetings with the Vikings.
Today's game will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona Plus (DirecTV 695/695-1 HD, Dish 442/9580 HD) and NAU-TV, which airs locally on Suddenlink Cable channel 4 and 104 in HD. The game will also air on tape delay on FOX College Sports Pacific on Sunday morning at 1 a.m. Jordan Byrd, Sharon Falor, and Heather Hodgeson will have the call of the game which will also stream live online on NAU-TV.com and bigskytv.org. Links to the online broadcasts as well as live stats can be found on NAUAthletics.com.
The first of five home indoor meets will commence this morning for the Northern Arizona University track and field teams, as the Lumberjack Team Challenge brings some of the region's best talent to town in an early season showcase.
The Lumberjacks start 2013 as the reigning Big Sky Conference men's cross country, indoor and outdoor champions, and also bring back five individual winners on both sides from last year's Big Sky indoor meet.
Headlining the entries in the running events for NAU will be recently-crowned cross country All-American Brian Shrader, Top-50 cross country athlete Rochelle Kanuho, 60-meter dash school record holder Darriel Banks, and 200-meter dash standout Miles di Sabella.
In the field events, 2012 Big Sky indoor champion Edgar Panford will take to the runway in the long jump and triple jump, last year's conference 400-meter medalist Adel al Nasser competing in the latter for the first time in his career. Fellow titlists Deante Kemper and Lauren Laszczak return to the high jump pit, where both have their work cut out in facing national-caliber jumpers from both Arizona State and Arizona.
In addition to the jumps, Lauren Stuart leads a deep NAU throws group made up of returners Kasandra Vegas, Gus Margiotta, Jessica Bush and Jamie Pomaski, as well as newcomers Brian Thompson, Shawn Collins, and Jessica Weise.
The talent making the trip, namely the nationally-ranked Arizona and Arizona State, to compete against NAU will be formidable, but provides a welcome challenge for the Lumberjacks. Georganne Moline, a 2012 Olympian for the United States in the 400-meter hurdles, headlines Arizona's squad, while Olympic Trials shot put competitor Jordan Clarke leads the crew from ASU.
Additionally, Nike athlete, 2012 Olympian, and 2012 NCAA Champion Cam Levins, formerly of Southern Utah will travel to Flagstaff to face off with Shrader in the 800-meter run.
NAU will also put into action a talented group of freshmen on Saturday. Among them, Isatu Fofanah (60m, 200m, 4x400), one of Canada's top junior sprinters in 2012, Jade Childs (60mH, 200m, LJ, HJ), whose sister, Jenne, graduated from the NAU program last season, Cameron Coleman (400m), and Sedona's Chris Oestmann (400m, HJ) all hope to make impacts early and often in 2013.
The Lumberjack men enter the indoor season ranked 21st in the country by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) and are expected to take their second-consecutive Big Sky Championship, while the women, coming off a solid bounce-back season in 2012, are pegged by the league's coaches to come third in the Big Sky.
Tickets to each of the five home events are $5 for adults and $3 for NAU faculty & staff, youth (12 and under), and seniors. Fans with an NAU Sports Pass receive admission to all track and field events. As a bonus, a track ticket will get a fan free admission to tonight's women's basketball game against Portland State at 6:35.