The ball tipped off and the Northern Arizona women’s basketball team was off and running on the road Friday night.
The Lumberjacks got out to a blistering start but despite having four starters score in double figures, they fell short in an 83-76 season-opening loss to New Mexico.
“I’m happy with how we started; the players came out with confidence and that showed in the first five minutes and throughout the first quarter,” said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. “New Mexico is a very good team and they’re athletic. They turned up the heat defensively, and we made a lot of mistakes that we won’t be making when we’re further into the season. We learned a lot and we felt like this a game we should’ve won.”
The game was a stark contrast to New Mexico’s 29-point victory in the Walkup Skydome 11 months ago as NAU led Friday night’s contest for more than 35 minutes.
The Lumberjacks went on a 21-2 run to open up a game-high 19-point lead in the first quarter.
After turning the ball over just four times in the first 10 minutes, the Jacks committed 21 the rest of the game. New Mexico finished plus-10 in the turnover column and held a 28-7 advantage in points off turnovers. Still, despite NAU’s miscues, the Lumberjacks deep into the fourth quarter until the Lobos – a 24-win team from a year ago – snagged a 74-73 lead with 2:41 remaining.
New Mexico finished the game on a 11-3 run to deny the visitors.
New Mexico shot 39.2 percent compared to 39.1 percent by Northern Arizona. The Jacks recorded nine 3-pointers in the game, outscoring the Lobos by 12 points behind the arc, but the home team posted a 48-30 scoring advantage in the paint.
Jacey Bailey led the four double-digit scorers with 21 points, 11 in the first quarter. She knocked down three of her four 3s in the opening period.
NAU scored on its first seven possessions of the game, spurring the itself to a 16-4 lead just over three minutes into the game. After a Lobo bucket snapped a nearly three-minute scoring drought by the home team, redshirt sophomore Nina Radford hit the first of three straight triples to ignite a 9-0 run, which was followed up by two Bailey makes behind the arc.
NAU led 27-12 at the end of the first quarter, but New Mexico began to cut into the lead in the second quarter. Bailey’s fourth 3-pointer opened the second-quarter scoring and put the Lumberjacks ahead 30-12, but the Lobos managed to slice the deficit to 36-28 with just under four minutes remaining in the half.
NAU’s lead was trimmed to 41-32 at halftime and the Jacks led by just one, 45-44, four minutes into the third quarter before junior Lauren Orndoff, who scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half, knocked down a corner 3. However, the Lobos beat the third-quarter horn with a 3 to cap a 6-0 run to move ahead 56-55 going into the fourth.
Facing their first deficit of the game, the Lumberjacks immediately answered on the first possession of the fourth. After junior Khiarica Rasheed rebounded an NAU miss, she found Radford for a bucket and Radford was subsequently fouled. Radford completed the three-point play and knocked down two technical foul free throws resulting in a five-point possession that swung NAU back in front, 60-56.
After New Mexico got within two on two occasions, Orndoff continued her torrid second half with a three and followed up with and-1 play to push NAU’s lead back out to 68-60 with 6:22 remaining.
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New Mexico tied it at 72-72 with three and a half minutes to go before Rasheed put Northern Arizona ahead for the final time, 73-72, by splitting a pair of free throws with 2:59 on the clock. The Lobos converted on their next possession and proceeded to go on an 8-0 run to essentially lock down the victory.
In addition to her team-high 21 points, Bailey also led the team with eight rebounds. Rasheed recorded 15 points and five boards, while Orndoff scored 14. In her first game as a Lumberjack, Radford finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Redshirt sophomore Caitlin Malvar pulled down seven rebounds and tallied a team-high six assists.
“This was a great environment for our players to play in,” Payne said. “The fans rallied behind their team in the last five minutes. We played with them and controlled the game for 35 minutes. This is why you play non-conference (games) so you can see where your team is and what you can work on. We are way ahead of where we’ve ever been and we’re very excited to get back to work and welcome Seattle U into our house next weekend.”
The Lumberjacks host Seattle on Saturday, Nov. 1,6 in the Rolle Activity Center at 2 p.m. The home opener will be NAU’s only game in Flagstaff until its conference opener at the end of December.
The fall season came to a close Friday for the Jacks at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships with Chiara Tomasetti’s 6-3, 6-3 loss to LSU’s Taylor Bridges in the consolation bracket.
Tomasetti wrapped up the National Fall Championships with a 1-2 record for the second straight year, with both of her losses coming to nationally ranked opponents -- No. 6 Michaela Gordon of Stanford and No. 114 Bridges. Tomasetti, ranked No. 71, concluded the fall season with a 13-5 singles record.
The Lumberjacks doubles team of Adrianna Sosnowska and Mimi Bland did not compete Friday after falling to California’s Anna Bright and Haley Giavara in the second round. Before the loss, Sosnowska and Bland did take down Georgia’s No. 19-ranked duo of Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff in the first round.
Sosnowska and Bland finished the fall with an impressive 10-3 record, which led the Lumberjacks.
SWIM AND DIVE
For the second weekend in a row, Northern Arizona swimming and diving is at home again, this time to face the University of Idaho Saturay at 10:30 a.m.
“We need to be tough,” Lumberjacks head coach Andy Johns said. “We’re looking at trying to improve every week. It’s all in the technical details.”
In the home opener last week, the Lumberjacks swam against New Mexico, winning 169-131 over the Lobos. Two swimmers placed first in two events. Fernanda Montiel (100 back and 200 back) and Elisa Rodriguez (50 free and 100 free). Diver Jenny Cheetham also placed first in both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. With her scores, she is eligible to go to the NCAA Zone Diving Championships.
So far this season, Idaho is 2-3, finding their two victories against the College of Idaho (191-46) and WAC opponent Northern Colorado (152-148. NAU has two dual-meet wins, one against Northern Colorado on Oct. 18 (157.5-142.5) and the New Mexico matchup.