After sitting out the entirety of last season, Jacey Bailey is getting back to playing her brand of basketball.
Coming off her third double-double performance of the year, the Northern Arizona sophomore scored a career-high 31 points in Monday's 82-65 win over Montana.
Bailey's big moments come in big games.
Against Montana, she connected on 12 of 15 shots from the field and was 7 of 9 from 3-point range. The .800 shooting percentage moved her into a tie for the second-highest single-game clip on a minimum of 15 shot attempts in program history.
Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne didn't doubt Bailey, aware that sitting out a redshirt season comes with its share of challenges.
“I think for her, her timing is starting to come along really well," Payne said. "I think you started to see it a little early in conference when she had some good games but then some slumps. But I think she’s gotten a lot more consistent over these past few weeks and is really starting to find her flow in the offense.”
Northern Arizona has won three of its last five games, and during that stretch Bailey has averaged 20 points per outing. Bailey helped Northern Arizona end a six-game losing skid to Montana State on Saturday, scoring 23 points to go with a career-high 12 rebounds as the Lumberjacks got a win over the opponent for the first time since Jan. 24, 2015.
In Monday's win over Montana, which marked the first time the Jacks beat the Grizzlies in seven years, Bailey played 40 minutes for the first time and became the second player ever in program history to end up with at least seven 3-pointers made in two games for a single season.
Bailey notched the first of her three double-doubles so far this season in a 74-64 victory over Weber State in the Walkup Skydome, helping her team get its first Big Sky victory of the year and snap a six-game losing streak in the process. After the Weber win, the team went down another losing spiral of five games during which Bailey was inconsistent.
The talent was there for Bailey, but the confidence to produce consistently was still building.
“I kind of forgot what it was even like to play a basketball game," Bailey said of missing last season. "It was a whole year, and once I was put in that first game I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It was kind of overwhelming."
The Lumberjacks eventually got the boost they needed again from Bailey, who notched her second double-double of the year while helping her team snap the five-game skid that followed the victory over the Wildcats. In the 78-69 defeat of Southern Utah on the road, Bailey went for 13 points and 10 boards.
From there Bailey stumbled a few more times. She said her team and coaches picked her up in those moments, and provided her at times the confidence she lacked.
Bailey scored just two points in a home loss that followed her second double-double and tallied just five points in a in a 75-64 road win that completed the regular-season sweep of Weber. She has not finished a game with fewer than 10 points in a game since the five-point day.
Northern Arizona needs more than just her 3-point shots falling as the season comes to a close on Saturday at home and the team begins turning its attention to the conference tournament. For Payne, Bailey is best when her versatility shines.
“She is very different than anyone we have right now who is currently eligible to play," Payne said. "She creates a challenging matchup for other teams because we can run her at the four, we can run her at the three, we can run her as a push wing. So for her, it’s just being able to be part of so many different dimensions within in our offense.”
Northern Arizona owns an 11-17 overall record and a 7-9 mark in the Big Sky, the best results since the 2014-15 season when the Lumberjacks went 13-17 and 9-9 in conference.
Northern Colorado is Northern Arizona's regular-season finale as the host looks to post a three-game win streak for the first time this year Saturday.
Hopefully most of the rust is completely off Bailey and the young team's game for good.
“We all just have to be dialed-in, all the time," Bailey said.