Struggling on the glass throughout the night, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks’ inability to rebound against the Portland State Vikings showed up at one of the most crucial moments.
After cutting the lead down to one with 11:11 remaining for the first time in the second half, the Lumberjacks found themselves trailing by five with under three to play. Failing to keep a rebound out of the Vikings' hands, the deficit returned to eight as a timeout and 3-pointer helped put away the Lumberjacks 72-66 Saturday night in the Rolle Activity Center.
“I look up and two of our guards are leaking out, and for what? We were supposed to be in press break in a make or a miss,” said Lumberjacks head coach Jack Murphy. “So you should be up there anyway. If I could explain it, if I knew the reasons behind it, I would be a much better coach because I just don't understand.”
A missed jumper by Portland State’s Brandon Hollis with 2:26 left tipped off the hand of Northern Arizona’s Brooks DeBisschop, with the ball bouncing freely near the 3-point arc. With no Lumberjacks in the area, Deante Strickland scooped up the ball and the Vikings called a timeout.
Just 15 seconds after the teams returned to the court, Strickland put in a 3-pointer for a 64-56 lead. Northern Arizona (5-24, 2-14 Big Sky) never managed to score more than two straight points the rest of the way, as Portland State (18-11, 8-8) spoiled the Lumberjacks Senior Day.
Portland State finished the game with a 46-32 rebounding advantage, including a 16-7 advantage on the offensive end and a 17-5 victory in second-chance points.
“The thing that let us down was rebounding, it was horrible. Horrible,” Murphy said. “That’s the entire game. Coming in, the game plan was hold them in the 60s. If you rebound the basketball, you are in the 60s. Our guys followed the game plan, they executed the game plan. We just didn't finish possessions with rebounds.”
Northern Arizona outshot Portland State 40 percent to 38.3 percent, but attempted five fewer shots from the field and five fewer free throws due to the rebounding failures.
Neither offense could get rolling in the second straight low-scoring first half at the Rolle Activity Center, with the Lumberjacks and Vikings combining to shoot 17 of 59 from the field. Trailing just 24-23 at the break, Northern Arizona quickly fell behind by eight as Portland State scored seven straight in the first three minutes of the second half.
Four straight points by Jojo Anderson and a jumper by Corey Brown made it 38-37 with 11:11 left, but a 3 by Strickland started a 9-0 run to give the Vikings their largest lead of the game.
Torry Johnson led Northern Arizona with 15 points, while Karl Harris and Anderson each added 13. The trio played heavy minutes, with Chris Bowling missing the game due to illness and Gino Littles unable to play on his Senior Day with a knee injury.
Northern Arizona wraps up the Big Sky regular season next week at Idaho and Eastern Washington before the conference tournament begins on March 6. Locked into one of the bottom two seeds in the conference tournament, Northern Arizona will need a road victory and a winless week by Sacramento State in order to pass the Hornets.