With their defense stifling the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners for the final nine minutes of the game, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks ended their three-week road trip with their first win of the season.
Coming away with the 60-52 victory Saturday, the Lumberjacks (1-7) held the Roadrunners (4-5) to just four points in the final 8:44 and recorded their best defensive scoring performance, surpassing the 76 points allowed against Hampton last week.
Bakersfield finished the game shooting 38.8 percent from the field, as Northern Arizona’s 16-4 run to close the game included the Roadrunners hitting just 1 of 8 from the field, 1 of 6 from the free-throw line and committing eight turnovers.
Scoring 27 points off of Bakersfield’s 25 total turnovers, Northern Arizona exploited what has plagued it during its first month of the season. Chris Bowling led the Lumberjacks with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, scoring 13 of Northern Arizona’s 36 in the second half.
Never falling behind by more than five in the first half, Northern Arizona stayed close to Bakersfield thanks to Isaiah Thomas’ 12 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting. While he was held scoreless in the second half, Thomas finished the night with a double-double, adding a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Lumberjacks found themselves down 36-29 less than four minutes into the second half, giving the Roadrunners their largest lead of the night. A 13-4 run put Northern Arizona back in front as Gino Littles hit a 3-pointer and Karl Harris completed a 3-point play in a span of 40 seconds.
Harris later tied the score at 40 with a 3 before Torry Johnson put the Lumberjacks ahead on a layup with 11:57 left. Northern Arizona managed just two points for a stretch of more than five minutes before putting together its winning run.
JoJo Anderson connected on a 3-pointer with 6:27 left to cut the deficit to one at 48-47, with a jumper by Bowling putting Northern Arizona ahead 51-49 and never looking back. After Bakersfield came down with a defensive rebound under the basket, Littles sneaked in with a steal, followed with a layup and added in a free throw to take a 54-49 lead with 3:26 on the clock.
Northern Arizona got points from nine of the 10 players who played, with Harris adding eight and Littles with seven. Head coach Jack Murphy shuffled the starting lineup for the first time this season, with Ruben Fuamba and Anderson starting in place of Johnson and Thomas, alongside Littles, Bowling and Brooks DeBisschop.
While Northern Arizona hit 53.3 percent from the field, the schools ended up tied on the boards with 30 rebounds apiece, and ended up nearly identical in turnovers, assists and steals.
The Lumberjacks return to Flagstaff to face San Diego Christian of the NAIA on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
SWIM AND DIVE
A grueling four days in Austin came to an end on Saturday with positive performances all around by the Northern Arizona swimmers. With four evening swims on the last day of the Texas Invitational, Northern Arizona finished the meet with 12 individual finals swims overall.
"The night swims were better for everyone," said Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns. "The mile was pretty good for us across the board, and I'm really happy with how the final relay stepped up and swam well in the end. It was really tough competition, and I can't tell how many times I heard 'that's the fastest time in the country.' It was unbelievable and I'm really pleased overall."
The Lumberjacks' three distance swimmers performed well in the demanding 1,650-yard freestyle, with redshirt junior Monique King clocking the best time of 16:42.36. King's 14th-place finish was the best by any Lumberjack this week, and her time was over 11 seconds faster than her previous season-best. Freshman Sam Milewski (16:57.59) and senior Kimmy Richter (17:02.56) also turned in season-best times to place 18th and 20th respectively.
Of the Lumberjacks to swim at night, junior Sarah Takach and senior Alina Staffeldt displayed the biggest improvement between the morning prelims and the evening finals in the 200 breaststroke and 200 butterfly respectively. After touching the wall in 2:21.02 to qualify for the breaststroke finals, Takach placed 22nd overall with a time of 2:18.95. Staffeldt would win the butterfly D final with a time of 2:01.23 -- more than three seconds faster than her qualifying time -- to finish 25th.
Junior Andrea Schmidt accompanied Staffeldt in the 200 fly finals, competing in the C heat and placing 24th. Her best swim occurred in the morning with a time of 2:02.07. In the 200 backstroke, freshman Sarah O'Connor posted a time of 2:03.80 -- just off her prelim time of 2:03.71 -- to finish 31st.
NAU got two season-best performances by senior Roni Houck (51.41) and freshman Elisa Rodriguez (52.34) in the 100 free, and freshman Niamh McDonagh rounded out NAU's competitors with a time of 2:08.14 in the 200 fly.
Ending the meet on a high note, Rodriguez, Richter, King and Houck set a new season-best in the 400 freestyle relay by more than two seconds at 3:27.59.
NAU returns to action as a whole squad on Saturday, Dec. 16, with a dual meet at San Diego before the winter break.