Northern Arizona survived a tight regulation and won the game in overtime with a 74-72 victory over North Dakota at the Engelstad Sioux Center.
"I am so proud of our players and staff," NAU head coach Jack Murphy said. "It was a great win and gutsy performance on the road without one of our leaders, and captains stepped up. I am excited for how they played and gutted it out."
The Lumberjacks improved to 10-16 and 7-9 in Big Sky Conference play, posting a win over a UND team that entered the game in a tie for third in the standings. UND dropped to 11-14, 8-8 in Big Sky play.
"It was a very important win," said freshman guard DeWayne Russell, who scored 21 points.
UND won the first meeting between the teams last month, overcoming a 22-point deficit to win the game on a last second basket. Leading 61-59 with under a minute left, UND's Aaron Anderson hit one of two free throws. Russell then drove to the hoop and hit a layup to cut the lead to 62-61 with 35 seconds left.
On the next possession, Anderson was fouled again and hit the first free throw to push the lead to 63-61 before missing the second to give NAU a chance to tie or win the game.
"We did a high ball screen, and I saw the point guard was trailing me and the big man was backing up," Russell said. "So I wanted to attack him. Coach Murphy said we were going to get (a foul) and an and-one on the play. I attacked him and he did not foul me, so I took the layup."
With 10 seconds left, the Green and White had a final chance to win but the Lumberjacks contested the play and the desperation three by Troy Huff was off the mark to force overtime.
Anderson, who finished with 24 points for UND, started the overtime by hitting two three-pointers in the first two minutes to give UND the early lead. Freshman Blake Hamilton, who finished with a career-high tying 11 points, scored five points in overtime.
"Blake stepped up," Murphy said. "He played like he did not miss a beat. He did a really good job. It was a positive step for Blake in his freshman year. He has persevered through a lot and has been really resilient."
With 1:10 left, Rogers added a jumper to give NAU a 72-69 lead. An NAU turnover was sandwiched between missed UND shots including a three-point attempt by Anderson that could have tied the game. After a free throw by Michael Dunn with 13 seconds left, Anderson hit his third triple in overtime to pull UND within one. Rogers was fouled and made the first free throw before missing the second which was rebounded by UND with less than a second remaining. After a timeout, the Lumberjacks posted the big road victory as the desperation full-court heave was well short. It was the first win by a Big Sky team on Saturday against UND in Grand Forks this season. "I was really proud of how the guys shot free throws," Murphy said. "It is one of our better marks in overtime, guys really made big plays. We scored the first bucket in overtime and then they hit a couple of threes. We could have wilted and fallen away."
The game featured 20 lead changes and 11 ties in a back-and-forth contest. "There are going to be ebbs and flows in the game," said Murphy. Rogers and Russell both played the full 45 minutes and Rogers finished with a game-high 24 points to lead the Lumberjacks, including a key basket in the overtime period. Russell had 21 points.
"Stallon Saldovar was hurt and he really provides so much to the team," said Rogers. "We took it upon ourselves to play as hard as possible."
NAU will be off from Big Sky Conference play this week as the Lumberjacks will travel to Hawaii to take on the Warriors on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.