Despite leading for much of the game’s opening minutes, Northern Arizona struggled to score against the Big Sky Conference’s top shooting defense Saturday afternoon in the Walkup Skydome.
Held without a field goal for 5:43 after leading 10-7 in the first quarter, Northern Arizona (4-11, 1-3 Big Sky) never saw the lead again as Idaho State (9-5, 1-2) rolled to a 75-55 victory. Missing seven straight shots after Peyton Carroll put back a pair of missed layups with one hand, the Lumberjacks fell behind thanks to the Bengals' 13-1 run.
"We are taking steps forward, and then we are taking steps back. And then we are taking steps forward and taking steps back," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne, addressing how her team came back from 17 points down to beat Weber State two days earlier. "We need to start understanding the young ones have gotten a lot of experience and now we need more consistency from them."
Finishing the first quarter just 3 of 16 from the field, Northern Arizona barely fared better in the second quarter with a 4-of-13 performance. Meanwhile, Idaho State, the Big Sky’s second-best shooting team and top 3-point shooting group, steadily improved as the game wore on.
Hitting 37.5 percent from the field in the opening quarter, Idaho State improved to 41.2 percent in the second and plateaued in the third with a 64.7 percent run of 10 minutes, hitting 11 of 17.
Despite the struggles, Northern Arizona trailed by just one, 12-11, as the first quarter wound down, but a 3-point heave by Idaho State’s Estefania Ors sent Idaho State into the break leading by four. Another 3 by Ors 16 seconds into the quarter opened the scoring in the second, but the Bengals didn’t truly begin to pull away until an 8-1 run in the middle of the quarter.
While a jumper by Olivia Lucero snapped Northern Arizona’s run of six straight misses, Idaho State connected on 3s from Ors, and Dora Goles gave the Bengals their largest lead of the first half at 35-19.
"That's the most frustrating thing right now, I feel like we are getting really good looks and we are just not knocking them down," Payne said. "We missed a lot of really easy shots, a lot of layups -- I feel like if we were just more on balance we would be able to finish those."
Coming out of the break on a 12-3 run, interrupted by only a 3-pointer from Lumberjacks leading scorer Kenna McDavis, Idaho State effectively put Northern Arizona away. The lead swelled to 29 points, 64-35, on Idaho State’s first field goal of the fourth quarter, as it connected on 8 of 9 shots for a stretch, before Northern Arizona chipped it down to 18 late in the fourth quarter thanks to a 9-0 run with seven points from Chelena Betoney.
Grace Kenyon scored 10 of her team-high 18 points for the Bengals in the third quarter, with three others reaching double-digits for Idaho State. Ors added 16 points, with a 4-of-7 day from 3, while Brooke Blair finished with 14 and Goles finished with 12.
"They are a great team, they had some big wins early. They beat Washington, they beat Seattle, they beat Hawaii, they have some really quality wins," Payne said. "It's a long season, teams go through ups and downs. They kind of went through a down, and unfortunately I think they got back on track against us tonight."
After leading on the boards for much of the game, including a 10-4 advantage when leading 10-7 in the first quarter, Northern Arizona lost the rebounding battle 38-35. The Bengals also scored 20 points off of 17 Lumberjack turnovers, with 18 of the 20 coming in the final three quarters.
McDavis hit 4 of 8 from 3-point range to lead the Lumberjacks with 16 points before fouling out in the middle of the fourth quarter. Kaprice Boston ended up with 10 points, the only other Lumberjacks to reach double-digits as the team finished 15 of 53 from the field, 28.3 percent.
Northern Arizona rests until Jan. 13, with one of its two one-game conference weeks ahead. After taking Thursday off from competition, the Lumberjacks will face the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at 5 p.m. Saturday.