Redshirt senior Kenna McDavis tied her career-high with 27 points and freshman Khiarica Rasheed added a career-best 17 points in a 79-59 Northern Arizona women's basketball victory over North Dakota on Saturday. In the final Big Sky meeting between the two teams, with North Dakota set to depart the conference at the end of the season, NAU earned an emphatic win in the Walkup Skydome to improve to 6-19 overall and 3-11 in conference.
"Whatever team gets hot at the right time, that's what tournament time is about," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "For us, it's about building momentum one game at a time. This was the first game that we put 40 minutes together since Arizona (on Dec. 7). That's a good sign for us. If we continue to focus on the details, we could surprise some people come March."
Having shot just 21.6 percent from behind the arc over her last nine games, McDavis erupted for a 7-of-11 3-point performance, becoming the fifth player in program history to make seven 3s in a game. Notching her sixth 20-point game of the season, McDavis helped NAU drain a season-best 10 buckets from long range at a 47.6 percent clip.
"I thought I played pretty well, but we won because the team played well," McDavis said. "A lot of people stepped up and hit huge shots. It wasn't just 3s. Khi hit jumpers. They couldn't really hang with us tonight."
With McDavis doing the bulk of her damage on the perimeter, Rasheed handled the paint despite being undersized against a Fighting Hawk starting front line that stood at 6-2 and 6-3. Rasheed made six of her seven shots, in addition to a 5-for-8 showing at the free-throw line, to set a new personal best.
Olivia Lucero continued her strong play, scoring 18 points and registering a team-leading five assists, while junior Kaleigh Paplow came up a shy of a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds in what was a well-rounded team effort to snap a three-game losing streak to North Dakota.
"Kenna shot the best she has all year, and with Olivia scoring 18 and Kaleigh coming up huge with 11 boards, they were solid," Payne said. "If our Big 3 can play good-to-great and the rest of our players play solid, we're going to have a lot of opportunities to have success. We got a lot of contributions from everyone who played."
It was North Dakota that snagged the early advantage, jumping out to a 14-4 lead five minutes into the game. After shooting 53.3 percent in the first quarter with eight made baskets, however, the Fighting Hawks found it hard to score the rest of the game. North Dakota made just 12 total field goals in the final three quarters and finished the game on 32.8 percent shooting.
The Lumberjacks trailed 20-15 at the end of the first quarter, but took the lead for good late in the second quarter and went into the halftime with a 31-28 advantage. Consecutive 3s by junior Tate Tsingine and Lucero capped a 9-2 run to start the second half and extend NAU's lead to 40-30.
NAU's advantage grew as large as 14 points in the third frame, only for North Dakota to slice it to six before Paplow beat the quarter buzzer on an offensive putback to send the Jacks into the final period ahead 51-43.
Rasheed scored the Lumberjacks first seven points of the final period and McDavis hit three treys to secure NAU's second-largest margin of victory this season.
NAU shot 9 for 11 in the fourth quarter to wrap up a 45.9 percent showing as a team. Saturday marked the third straight game in which the Lumberjacks have shot better than 45 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.
NAU faces Sacramento State and Portland State next Thursday and Saturday respectively on its final road trip of the regular season. The Lumberjacks' first game of the week versus the Hornets will tip-off at 8 p.m. from Sacramento.
In their home opener, the Lumberjacks edged New Mexico, 4-3, Saturday to improve to 4-2 on the season.
"We were a little nervous at first given it was the first home match and we had an incredible crowd," said Lumberjacks head coach Maciej Bogusz. "Once we got through the nerves, we picked up our game and finished strong."
Despite falling in doubles, after New Mexico's 6-3, 7-5 clinch, the Lumberjacks were able to come back with momentum and energy.
"We had a really good showing, which definitely helped," Bogusz said. "The team really fed off the audience. Special thanks to everyone who came out to support today, especially in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day."
Northern Arizona mixed up the lineup in singles, with freshmen Cora-Lynn von Dungern at the No. 3 position, Ellie Millard at No. 5 and Madi Moore at No. 6.
The Lumberjacks fought hard against the Lobos, not letting any court get to three sets.
Chiara Tomasetti started off with a 6-0, 6-2 win to tie the match up 1-1. After, it was back and forth in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex with wins from Millard, Hanneke Lodewijks and a clinch from former Big Sky Athlete of the Week, Moore.
Northern Arizona will have a week of practice before hosting Montana in their first conference matchup and Wyoming in their third home competition. The Lumberjacks will face the Grizzlies Friday and the Cowgirls Saturday.
After falling to Arizona 4-0 Saturday, the Lumberjacks are now 1-3 on the season.
The Wildcats clinched the doubles point with a 6-1 win over Thomas Fisher and Lucas Taylor at the No. 2 position and a 6-2 win over Felix Schumann and Chris Steele at the No. 3 position.
Arizona continued its run against the Lumberjacks in singles, garnering the next three victories at the No. 3, 4 and 5 positions. Tim Handel and Ruben Montano were in the lead before the Wildcats clinched the win.
Northern Arizona will return to action Sunday at 10 a.m. against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Tucson.