Montana State entered Saturday's contest on a 30-game home winning streak, and the Bobcats looked every bit as comfortable in making it 31 in a row, cruising by the Northern Arizona women's basketball team, 81-39. NAU dropped its sixth straight game and finished the first weekend of conference play with a 3-10 overall record and 0-2 Big Sky mark.
"We have a very young team and this is their first experience of Big Sky Conference play on the road," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "It was a tough weekend. We lost a heartbreaker on Thursday and the focus was there to execute the game plan today. I didn't feel the energy was there though and when you shoot 23 percent from the field and 10 percent from 3, you're not going to win many games. We got good looks, but we couldn't buy a bucket today."
The Lumberjacks shot only 23.4 percent in their lowest-scoring game since Feb. 21, 2015 when they put up only 42 points in a loss at Eastern Washington. Meanwhile, the Bobcats drilled 16 3-pointers and shot 49.2 percent overall. The Bobcats also held a commanding 47-35 advantage on the glass.
Redshirt senior Kenna McDavis and junior Kaleigh Paplow led the Lumberjacks with eight points each as NAU failed to produce a double-digit scorer for the first time all season. Paplow and freshman Khiarica Rasheed shared team-high honors with seven boards apiece.
Montana State scored the first eight points of the game and led by double-digits for the game's final 33 and a half minutes. The Bobcats hit nine 3s in the first half, while the Lumberjacks made just eight total field goals as they trailed 41-19 at halftime. The 19 points marked NAU's lowest-scoring half of the season.
The Lumberjacks managed one run late in the second quarter to cut a 33-12 Bobcat lead to 14 points with under two minutes remaining in the first half. Freshman Kaprice Boston started the 7-0 run with a floater, and was followed by a McDavis triple. Sophomore Peyton Carroll, who led the Lumberjacks with six first half points, then knocked down a corner jumper to bring the score to 33-19, only for the Bobcats to respond immediately with consecutive threes.
The NAU momentum was short-lived with Montana State closing the first half on an 8-0 run and unfortunately the Lumberjacks' offensive struggles carried into the third quarter. The Lumberjacks made just 2 of 19 from the field in the third, hampering any chances of a second half comeback with the Bobcats taking a 57-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
Although the teams were even in the turnover column with 14 each, Montana State made the most of its extra opportunities by outscoring NAU by 16 in points off turnovers. The Bobcats were also plus-12 in second chance points despite the Lumberjacks posting 16 offensive rebounds to the Bobcats' 13.
"Every night you need to be ready to go," Payne said. "Energy, effort and playing together are key pieces for us. Fortunately now we get to go home and have a three-game homestand, and we're excited to get back to Flag."
NAU returns home for its first two games in the Walkup Skydome starting with Thursday's matchup with Weber State at 6:30 p.m. The Lumberjacks will also host Idaho State next Saturday at 5 p.m. as they look to get back on track.