Hoping that a return home is the cure to their recent offensive struggles, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team hosts New Mexico in their Walkup Skydome debut today at 2 p.m. The game, the first at home in three weeks for the Lumberjacks, will kick off a doubleheader, preceding the men's basketball team's contest against Utah Valley at 6 p.m.
"New Mexico comes in at 6-1, but we could also easily be 6-1 and they could be 4-3," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "It's going to be a really good game. They're super athletic and they will pressure us. We're looking for continued growth, for one or two players on the depth chart to step up, because we'd like to go a little deeper into our bench. I'm looking forward to a chance to bounce back on Saturday."
NAU has dropped its last two games, most recently 65-54 on Wednesday on the road at Colorado State. The Lumberjacks still hold a winning record of 4-3 and with a win in either of their final two nonconference games, they would secure their first nonconference winning record in 12 years.
The Lumberjacks trailed the Rams by as much as 17 points, but got within one in the third quarter. Freshman Regan Schenck was at the forefront of NAU's rally, scoring 11 points in the third quarter. She connected on three of NAU's eight 3-pointers in their best performance from behind the arc since draining a school record 15 in its season-opening win against Fresno State.
The Jacks are welcoming a hot Lobo team into the Skydome, with New Mexico having won its last five games since its only loss to Auburn on Nov. 11. New Mexico knocked off UTEP, 69-51, to improve to 6-1 overall. This season, New Mexico has already earned wins against Texas State, Houston, Oklahoma and New Mexico State -- each of whom were postseason teams last season.
NAU is 1-1 against Mountain West opponents this season. Before their loss to Colorado State on Wednesday, the Jacks defeated Fresno State, 86-73, on Nov. 6.
Senior Kaleigh Paplow led the Jacks with 15 points against Colorado State and has scored in double-figures in all seven games so far this season. She is the Big Sky Conference's sixth-leading scorer at 17 points per game. In addition to leading the Lumberjacks in scoring, Paplow also leads the team in rebounds with 6.1 per game and assists with 4.4 per game.
Sophomore Khiarica Rasheed ranks second on the team in scoring (13.4), rebounding (5.9) and field goal percentage (.521). Sophomore Lauren Orndoff, averaging 9.9 points per game, leads the Big Sky in field-goal percentage at .543. Orndoff is also Northern Arizona's top 3-point shooter at 50 percent, placing her in a tie for second.
Redshirt sophomore Caitlin Malvar returned from a one-game absence due to injury to earn her first start as a Lumberjack on Wednesday. Malvar has made a team-high 14 3-pointers and is ninth in the Big Sky in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.8.
Saturday's game will be televised live by NAU-TV and will be shown in the valley on Your Phoenix CW, as well locally on Suddenlink channels 4 and 104. The game will also be available on Pluto TV Channel 239. Pluto TV is available online and on their free mobile app.