Northern Arizona suffered a 77-71 loss to UC Irvine in its final game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational on Friday afternoon at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Lumberjacks were defeated despite leading by as many as 13 points. The UC Irvine outscored Northern Arizona, 46-34, over the final 20 minutes of regulation and held the their opponent without a field goal for an eleven-minute, 26-second stretch in the second half.
The loss marks the Lumberjacks sixth straight to start the season as they fall to 0-6 overall. UC Irvine moves to 3-4 following the victory.
Sophomore Chris Bowling led the attack for the Lumberjacks with a career-high 26 points, shooting 10 of 15 overall, including a 4-of-8 clip from 3-point range. Fellow sophomore JoJo Anderson netted 19 points in the loss, his fourth consecutive game in double digits, and shot 5 of 10 from the field, 7 of 8 from the free-throw line and 2 of 4 from beyond the arc.
The Lumberjacks also enjoyed their best performance from the charity stripe to date this season as they connected on 19 of 23 attempts. NAU pulled down 13 offensive rebounds and converted them into 17 second-chance points. Isaiah Thomas led the Lumberjacks on the boards with a game-high nine rebounds.
"It was a quick turnaround, we didn't have a lot of time to prepare for them and they didn't have a lot of time to prepare for us," said Lumberjacks head coach Jack Murphy. "That is a really good program we played today. I thought we really took the fight to them in the first half, which is what we wanted to do."
The Lumberjacks got off to a fast start as they opened with a 10-0 advantage courtesy of some early 3s. NAU led by as many as 13 with 10:32 remaining in the first half and went into intermission holding a 37-31 advantage.
UC Irvine rallied in the second, shooting 15 of 29 from the field in the final 20 minutes and was a perfect 5 of 5 from the field to close out the game.
Northern Arizona will return to action on Thursday when it travels to face West Coast Conference member Santa Clara in an 8 p.m. tip from the Leavey Center. The matchup will be broadcast live on the Lumberjack Radio Network, beginning with the pregame show at 7:30 p.m.
The Navajo Nation in Tuba City will be the site of the women's special Monday game with Antelope Valley on Monday as the two teams will square off at 6:30 p.m. in the Tuba City High School gym.
All fans are encouraged to purchase $5 general admission tickets ahead of Monday to avoid long lines at the gym's ticket window. Tickets can be purchased now at the Bashas' at Hwy 160 and Hwy 264 in Tuba City.
NAU carries a 1-3 record into the game and is coming off a high note after notching its first victory of the season Sunday to end its time at the Bank of Hawaii Classic. NAU rallied to defeat Boise State, 62-60, after falling to Hawaii, 84-68, in its tournament opener. NAU's win versus Boise State was not only Loree Payne's first as the head coach of the Lumberjacks, but it also snapped a five-game losing streak dating back to last season.
Redshirt senior Olivia Lucero is one of three players in the Big Sky averaging at least 20 points a game. With a team-leading 20.5 scoring average for the Lumberjacks, she has eclipsed 20 or more points in three of four contests. Redshirt senior Kenna McDavis and junior Kaleigh Paplow are giving the Lumberjacks three dependable scorers in addition to Lucero, with the former averaging 17.8 points and the latter at 15.3 per game.
The trio all sit inside the top 13 of the conference in scoring.
NAU has three players on its roster -- senior Chelena Betoney, junior Tate Tsingine and sophomore Desirae Gonzalez -- with Native American heritage. Tsingine is a Tuba City native.
Antelope Valley owns a record of 5-4 this season after dropping a pair of games to Weber State, 80-70, and Dixie State, 71-59, on the road Monday and Tuesday.
The Pioneers' loss to Weber State is one of three games they have played against Division I foes this season. Their record does not include exhibition losses to Alabama and Southern Mississippi. Antelope Valley is in its second year of existence as a program. Last season, the Pioneers won the NAIA Cal Pac Conference regular-season championship. Facing Weber State on Monday, Antelope Valley led by six going into the fourth quarter. Samantha Earl posted team-highs of 22 points and seven rebounds, with Alyssa Gonzales scoring 14 points off the bench.