Idaho State led for almost the entire game, at one point by 18 points, but nearly let the Northern Arizona men’s basketball team rally late Saturday in the Walkup Skydome.
The Bengals sneaked out of the Skydome with a 71-67 win over the Lumberjacks, holding off a late surge in the final 3:24 of the game.
Northern Arizona, which fell to 7-7 overall and 1-4 in the Big Sky Conference, trailed 68-52 until Bernie Andre hit a 3-pointer to spark a late comeback push. The Bengals offense sputtered while Northern Arizona finally chipped away the deficit, with a post hook and then an And-1 dunk by Brooks DeBisschop.
DeBisschop missed the free throw, but Chris Bowling came away with steal off a deflected pass and Ted McCree hit a close jumper to cut the Idaho State lead down to 68-61 with 1:13 to play.
The Lumberjacks nearly forced a turnover on the ensuing press, but Tarik Cool got free down the middle on a backdoor and hit a pair of free throws. It looked like Idaho State had it cemented after the foul shots, but Luke Avdalovic made in a bit interesting.
Andre rebounded a Cameron Satterwhite miss and tossed it to Avdalovic for a trey, and then on the ensuing inbounds pass, Satterwhite came up with a steal and found Avdalovic again.
That hit by Avdalovic, who finished 3 of 5 from deep, cut it down to 70-67 with nine seconds left, but the late spurt was too little too late as the game ended and Northern Arizona couldn’t come up with a rebound on a missed free throw.
“Our idea was to try and get the ball downhill and kick it out if they take the rim away,” Lumberjacks interim head coach Shane Burcar said of his team’s plan down the stretch. “Some of our guys started making some shots. Even then we had some opportunities we didn’t capitalize … Again, we just got to keep working.”
Northern Arizona was hot and cold all game offensively -- at one point hitting 9 of 13 from the field down the final 5:49, but also going 2 of 15 in a seven-minute span in the first half.
It wasn’t as if the Lumberjacks were taking bad shots, the looks just weren’t falling.
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The Lumberjacks went 12 of 31 from the field and 2 of 7 from behind the arc in the first half, while Idaho State shot 13 of 28 from the field and 3 of 8 from the perimeter. The Lumberjacks trailed by as much as 12 but cut it to a 31-26 halftime score.
Idaho State hit on 8 of 11 shots from the field late in the half as the Bengals padded their lead before the late Northern Arizona surge.
Burcar noted Northern Arizona’s effort defensively in the loss, as the team looked a half-second slow against Idaho State’s offensive actions.
“I think the key word there is ‘effort’," Burcar said. “You don’t want to say too much without looking at the film, but I would be willing to take a guess that it was our effort defensively -- effort, execution, however you want to say it.”
DeBisschop finished with a double-double, scoring a career-high 20 points and nabbing 10 rebounds. Satterwhite had 13 points, 12 in the first half as he was held in check in the second half.
The Bengals were paced by 18 points and seven assists by Cool.
Idaho State, which is smaller at most positions than Northern Arizona, outrebounded the host 37-34.
Just a week after an emotional and strong win over Weber State at home, the Lumberjacks have lost two straight and sit near the bottom of the Big Sky standings. All four of the Lumberjacks conference losses have come by seven or fewer points.
Burcar said he isn't worried about his team going forward despite the sudden change following the Weber State win.
The Lumberjacks travel to take on Southern Utah (10-5, 3-1 Big Sky) Thursday in Cedar City, Utah.