Still without key players in senior guard Lauren Orndoff, senior forward Khiarica Rasheed and redshirt junior guard Nina Radford, the NAU women’s basketball team traveled down to Phoenix for a matchup against in-state rival GCU.
GCU came into the game at an unbeaten 3-0 record with wins over Weber State, Benedictine Mesa and Loyola Marymount University.
The Lumberjacks had a quick turnaround after traveling all the way up to the Pacific Northwest to take on Eastern Washington to open Big Sky Conference play, and it showed in the first half as they turned the ball over 14 times.
The Antelopes brought full-court pressure in the first quarter and were able to stun NAU and get two easy steals. However, GCU couldn’t capitalize on the turnovers and finished the half shooting only 34%.
Senior transfer guard JJ Nakai once again flashed her multifaceted arsenal with seven points, five rebounds and an assist to keep NAU in the lead. She shared the scoring high in the first half with redshirt senior guard Jacey Bailey, who contributed eight rebounds with her seven points.
NAU jumped out to a fast start in the second half. Bailey and sophomore guard Emily Rodabaugh each hit a 3-pointer and the Lumberjacks found themselves with a double-digit lead early in the third quarter. However, they allowed GCU to keep the game competitive with four turnovers thanks to the Lopes’ aggressive trap defense.
While NAU entered the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the fatigue from the road trip and GCU’s relentless defensive pressure became apparent as the Lumberjacks failed to score and the array of turnovers allowed the Antelopes to rally back and take the lead.
Before the Lumberjacks began intentionally fouling GCU late, they shot a ghastly 1-for-10 from the field in the fourth, only scoring two points. They also committed seven turnovers, finishing with a season-high 25 for the night.
Thanks to dominant interior play from freshman center Katie Scott, GCU’s lead was too much for NAU to overcome as they won 66-58, going on a 38-19 scoring run after trailing by double digits. Scott finished the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Bailey filled the stat sheet for the Lumberjacks by recording her second double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.
Nakai contributed 13 points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
Unforced mistakes were NAU’s kryptonite as the mass amount of turnovers, missed shots and team fouls cost them the game.
The Lumberjacks will get a much-needed week off and look to bounce back Dec. 17 in their home-opener against the University of Texas, El Paso.