Despite a strong offensive start on a 20-point first quarter, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (3-6) struggled as a whole for the second straight game and fell to in-state rival Grand Canyon Thursday afternoon.
Losing 72-54, the Lumberjacks finished with their lowest scoring total of the season and second-worst performance from behind the 3-point arc. After connecting on 3 of 5 from outside in the first quarter, Northern Arizona went on to miss its final nine 3s in the last 30 minutes and committed a total of 20 turnovers in the home game at Rolle Activity Center.
“It’s not indicative of who we are as a team; our shooting percentage was a struggle,” said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. “You can’t turn the ball over 20 times, though, and expect to score. This is a game where we got out-attempted and that’s something we take pride in -- we want to get more shot attempts up than our opponents.”
Down 39-30 a minute into the second half, Northern Arizona quickly fell behind by 22 points as Grand Canyon rolled on offense. Trailing 47-30 after Grand Canyon scored eight straight thanks in part to a 3 and three free throws for a foul on another 3, Northern Arizona hit its first field goal of the half 2:33 into the third.
While Kenna McDavis’ jumper snapped the 8-0 run, Grand Canyon added another 8-1 spurt with only a free throw by Olivia Lucero interrupting the Antelopes’ scoring. However, while Northern Arizona failed to put much together from outside, the team went to Brianna Lehew inside as it tried to rally.
Lehew finished with a career-high 13 points off the bench, hitting 6 of 10 from the field and adding seven rebounds. Only Lucero joined her in double-digits with 13 points as well, adding five rebounds.
“Bri had a tremendous game, the best game of her career here. She did everything we asked her to do. She is a kid that will come in and work hard every day,” Payne said. “She is consistent in her energy and her effort, and it's something that really paid off for her tonight. She was fundamental in what she was doing and it helped us to stage what could have been a great comeback.”
Lehew connected on four straight baskets in a stretch of 3:37, providing her team an 8-0 run to come within 14 at 55-41. The Lumberjacks continued their comeback attempt early in the fourth quarter, with a pair of free throws by Khiarica Rasheed and a layup by Lucero further cutting into the Antelopes' lead at 60-49 with 7:21 remaining.
Grand Canyon soon answered with another 8-0 run to put the game out of reach, again connecting on a trio of free throws after a foul on a 3-point attempt. Entering the game shooting 31.4 percent from deep, the Antelopes finished 10 of 23 from outside, as well as 14 of 15 from the free-throw line.
On the other side, Northern Arizona entered as a 36.7 percent 3-point-shooting team, but struggled as its leading long-range shooter worked back from injury. Going down against Arizona with a foot injury, McDavis missed last weekend’s loss to Cal Poly before coming off the bench and starting the second half Thursday. McDavis scored seven points on 3-of-15 shooting while tying a team-high with eight rebounds in 32 minutes.
“One of the challenges this year is going to be keeping people healthy,” Payne said. “We have a core three of Liv, Kenna and Kaleigh who are very consistent for us in production, and when one of them goes down we have a lot of making up to do in other areas.”
Both sides struggled throughout the second quarter, with a combined 20 points scored in the 10 minutes -- they reached that mark just 3:21 into the first quarter.
With Grand Canyon shooting just 5 of 16 in the second, Northern Arizona failed to take advantage with its own 3-for-14 quarter. Adding to the Lumberjacks' struggles, the team committed 10 first-half turnovers, nullifying their 21-16 advantage on the boards through the opening 20 minutes.
“It was just one of those nights where shots we usually hit just weren't falling,” Payne said. “Kenna is still trying to get her timing back, coming back from an injury, and hasn't practiced yet until basically this game.”
Grand Canyon opened up the game shooting well from outside, hitting 5 of 6 from behind the 3-point range in the first quarter. The Antelopes took control of the game early thanks to their shooting as a pair of 3s turned a 21-20 lead into a 27-20 advantage to close out the quarter.
A pair of jumpers to open the second put Grand Canyon on a 10-0 run and a 31-20 lead, as Northern Arizona ended up scoreless for a three-minute stretch. The sides traded baskets for the final 7:50 of the quarter and entered halftime with the Lopes leading 39-28.