The Northern Arizona men's basketball team challenged the Big Sky-leading Weber State Wildcats on the road before falling 83-70 at the Dee Events Center Thursday night.
The Lumberjacks played a good first half, leading for most of the first 15 minutes over the first-place Wildcats. The game featured eight ties and six lead changes as NAU and Weber State exchanged the lead in the first half. The Wildcats closed the half on an 8-0 run to take a 38-31 lead into halftime.
"Before the game, we talked about playing 200 minutes," head coach Jack Murphy said. "I thought out of the 200 minutes in the game, we played about 180 minutes. For us, it was little minute and two-minute spurts that cost us tonight.
"Our offense was really good and we moved the basketball and shot 50 percent from floor for the second straight game."
Weber State extended the lead in the second half and held off the Lumberjacks with a huge advantage on the free-throw line, shooting 29 of 33 for the game after an 8-for-8 first half. NAU made just 8 of 15 attempts from the free-throw line.
"We have to do a better job of keeping teams off the foul line," Murphy said. "For the second straight game, we were outshot on the foul line by double digits. Honestly, that came down to be the deciding factor. They made their free throws and we sent them there too much.
"We did not make ours when we had the opportunity."
The Lumberjacks turned the ball over just seven times but the Wildcats recorded nine blocks. Weber State shot 55 percent from the floor in the second to aid their winning effort.
Weber State was led by Kyle Tresnak with a game-high 23 points. Forward Davion Berry scored 17 points and Joel Bolomboy added 13 off the bench.
NAU had four players in double figures in the game. Junior forward Max Jacobsen led the scoring for the Lumberjacks with 18 points, shooting 9-for-11 from the field. Freshman guard DeWayne Russell added 15 points, while Utah native Stallon Saldivar had 12 points and senior guard Gabe Rogers chipped in 11.
"We are doing a great job of sharing the basketball and once again Max led the way in the post," Murphy said. "He is getting great looks at the basket. It is a credit to the guards and the four-man with him on the floor. We are getting him the ball where he can score."
The Lumberjacks shot 50 percent from the field for the second consecutive game against one of the nation's toughest defensive units. The Wildcats entered the game 18th in the country in field goal percentage defense.
"A lot of it is running a good offense and getting good looks at the rim," said Murphy. "We were 28 of 51 on two-point shots. When we run our offense, share the basketball and not care about who gets the glory, we are pretty good."
WSU is now 12-3 on the season with a perfect 7-0 mark in Big Sky play. NAU fell to 5-12 and 2-5 in league play.
"It is a game we can learn from but ultimately it is another loss and we have to start winning some games," Murphy said.
The Lumberjacks have lost four straight and seven of the last eight overall.
"It is not any one thing," Murphy said. "It is an accumulation of the smaller, little plays that we have to make. For us to compete, especially against the best team Weber State, we have to play pretty darn well for the entire game. We cannot go through stretches where we do not play as well. They did a great job of taking advantage when we had our miscues."
NAU travels to Pocatello, Idaho, to take on Idaho State on Saturday starting at 7:05 p.m.
The game will be broadcast on 105.1 The Big Talker in Flagstaff, online on their website and via the Big Talker mobile app. Fans can also watch the game on Big Sky TV.
TRACK AND FIELD
The Walkup Skydome will be bustling with the sounds of a track meet for the second straight weekend, as Northern Arizona University hosts its annual NAU Invitational beginning Saturday morning.
The meet is sure to be a showcase all across the board, but focus for NAU will primarily be on the women's sprints and the men's throws, with notable Lumberjacks either debuting or looking to improve on stellar performances from last Saturday's season opener.
"A person can run some fast times in the Dome, as it's shown over the last few years, so it's exciting for programs making the trip this weekend like UNLV and those from southern California who historically have great sprinters," director of track and field and cross country Eric Heins said.
NAU will field a current and a former school record holder in the women's 60-meter dash, presumably, for the first time in history. Isatu Fofanah, who broke the record last week with a time of 7.48 seconds (altitude adjusted), and Darriel Banks, who held the previous record until last weekend after setting it at last year's Big Sky Indoor Championships, will hit the track in the first head-to-head matchup of what will undoubtedly become a great friendly rivalry for the freshman and sophomore.
Two other notable events to watch will be the men's weight throw and shot put, as the Lumberjacks' rebuilding effort following the losses of All-American Pascal Tang and Big Sky Champion Karl Gehrke in 2012 is about to hit full speed.
Duncan will insert two more newcomers into the mix this weekend in freshmen Micael Ljungberg and Travis Colby, both of whom will open up in the weight throw and shot put.
Tickets can be purchased from the link at the top of this article, or at the Dome's east entrance. Prices are $5 for adults and $3 for NAU faculty & staff, youth (12 and younger), and seniors, and fans who bring a track ticket to Saturday night's women's basketball contest vs. Idaho State gain free admission.
Field events begin at 9 a.m., with running events following at 10 a.m.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
The NAU swimming and diving team looks to complete an undefeated home season at 11 a.m. Saturday when it hosts Colorado State in Wall Aquatic Center. The Lumberjacks are 3-0 in home duals this year and will honor their four graduating seniors -- Kristy Ardavanis, Fi Connell, Kelsey Loy, and Danielle Palbykin -- during their final home meet.
"It's going to be a tough meet; I expect some great swims and they have some quality divers, so I think we'll be challenged," NAU head coach Andy Johns said. "We're looking forward to showcasing our seniors and our girls always seem to get excited about swimming at home. It should be a great last home meet to get ready for conference."
The Lumberjacks haven't competed at home since Dec. 1 when they scored a 176-116 win over New Mexico State. NAU also has home dual wins over Arizona State and Northern Colorado and has spent the last month and a half training in South Florida, Tucson, and Flagstaff while competing against elite competition from Northwestern, Arizona, and Oregon State in preparation for Saturday's meet and the WAC Championships at the end of February.
The four Lumberjack seniors have accomplished great things throughout their careers and have continued to perform well this season. The quartet has contributed to NAU's record breaking WAC Championship performances over the last two seasons and has been a part of five program records and six all-time top-five individual performances.
Among the top divers in the WAC during her career, Ardavanis has totaled eight WAC Diver of the Week awards over the last two years. She is a three-time All-WAC first team honoree and also earned an All-WAC second team honor, and she has the second highest 1-meter and 3-meter scores in program history.
Loy and Connell were both members of NAU's school record 200 medley relay team at the WAC Championships last season. Loy has been among the team's top sprinters and backstrokers during her career and advanced to multiple finals at the conference meet in each of her last two seasons.
Admission for Saturday's meet in Wall Aquatic Center is free.
With all six starters back in 2013, the Northern Arizona women's tennis team faces a stiff opening weekend of spring competition that features two nationally-ranked in-state rivals. The Lumberjacks will head south for three matches this weekend starting with a doubleheader in Tucson today versus No. 29 Arizona and UC Davis followed by a quick turnaround against No. 37 Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday.
In stark contrast to a year ago when Bruno needed to replace four graduating starters, she returns each member of her top-six lineup from last spring that includes a total of four All-Big Sky selections. In their first season as Lumberjacks in 2012, senior Ghizelene Doballah and sophomore Hannah Stone, last season's top-two occupants in the NAU lineup, both garnered first team all-conference in their first seasons, as did sophomore Johanna Vang who earned All-Big Sky honorable mention. Senior Malia Wahinepio, one of only two returning starters at the start of the 2012 campaign, also was named honorable mention for her third all-conference selection in as many years.
Doballah compiled a 9-13 record as the Lumberjacks' top player in the lineup and was followed by Stone, Wahinepio and Vang in the No. 2-4 spots, all of whom posted double-digit win totals. Wahinepio, Vang and senior Alice Pacaut each tallied a team-best 11 singles victories. Senior Nicole Perez and Pacaut, the No. 5 and 6 players in 2012, are back for final season as is senior Alice Walker, who has been a reliable seventh option for the Lumberjacks over her career. Newcomers Tatum Rochin, a junior transfer from Pima Community College, and Jordan Denesik, a freshman from Anthem, join the seven returning Lumberjacks on the roster.
In addition to their success individually in singles play, Stone and Vang were one of the top doubles pairs in the conference as freshmen. Their 13 doubles victories was the third most by any Big Sky duo last season and they carried that over into the fall season where they advanced to the round of 16 of the doubles main draw at the USTA/ITA Mountain Regional Championships.
A match against No. 29 Arizona today kicks off the spring season for NAU. The Wildcats advanced to the second round of the NCAA Regionals last season and features a pair of regionally-ranked players. Kim Stubbe (No. 9) and Lacey Smyth (No. 13) are both ranked in the Southwest Region preseason ranks and the two also forms the No. 9 doubles team in the region.
Following the Arizona match, the Lumberjacks will play UC Davis in the second half of Friday's doubleheader. The Aggies defeated the Lumberjacks, 7-0, in NAU's spring opener last season. To wrap up the weekend, the Lumberjacks will head to Tempe to take on No. 37 Arizona State, who also shut out NAU last season, 7-0.
The Lumberjacks play Arizona at 10 a.m. and UC Davis at 3 p.m. at UA's LaNelle Robson Tennis Center on Friday. Their match against Arizona State will take place at the Whiteman Tennis Center on ASU's campus on Saturday at noon.
Editor's Note: NAU's Sports Information Department contributed to this roundup.