With a 6-3 record in non-conference play, the NAU men’s basketball team looked to maintain the strong performances coming against their first conference opponent of the season in Missoula, Montana, Saturday.
As the Lumberjacks faced off against the University of Montana Grizzlies, both teams struggled to get the lid off the basket in the first few minutes of the first half. NAU found its rhythm and used the three-point line to their advantage to get on top, hitting seven 3-point shots and shooting 50% from the three-point line.
Turnovers were a big factor for both teams in the first half, as both teams ended with nine total turnovers. The Lumberjacks kept the Grizzlies down for the most part in the first half, escaping with a small lead.
NAU poked the sleeping bear in the second half, as the Grizzlies woke up, and were able to scratch and claw their way back to take a one-point lead with nine minutes left in the game. Senior guard Sayeed Pridgett put the Grizzlies on his back and led the team by scoring 27 points, and collecting eight total rebounds.
NAU’s standout senior guard Ted McCree Jr. and sophomore guard Cameron Shelton tried to keep their team in the fight, with McCree scoring 15 points, and Shelton setting up for his teammates with three assists and crashing the glass by grabbing nine rebounds.
With the game including six ties and eight lead changes throughout, NAU started to fade away late in the contest. When it came down to the wire, the Lumberjacks could not get it done and let their early lead slip away. The Grizzlies were able to come from behind and take the win in the first conference game of the season with a 79-72 score.
NAU missed chances at the free-throw line, with a 67% free throw percentage, which could have been the difference between a win and a loss for the Lumberjacks.
With this win, the Grizzlies take their 10th straight conference opener win and will try to build momentum with the rest of the Big Sky teams waiting in the wings.
NAU, on the other hand, will take their fourth loss on the season and will look to put it behind them, and continue to get better against the rest of their conference opponents.
The Lumberjacks will stay in Montana, as they head to Bozeman to face the Montana State Bobcats Monday at 6 p.m.