After picking up their second win of the season on New Year’s Eve, the NAU men’s basketball team hit the court once again in Moscow, Idaho to take on the University of Idaho Saturday.
The Lumberjacks took the first game of this matchup, and hoped to do the same to build momentum in the new year after a rough start to the season.
The first half was a back-and-forth battle, with multiple lead changes and ties. The Lumberjacks stuck to their gameplan, getting out in transition and attempting shots from beyond the arc. Junior guards Cameron Shelton and Luke Avdalovic carried the scoring load, with Shelton scoring 10 points and Avdalovic scoring eight in the half.
While the Lumberjacks had the advantage at the 3-point line in the half, scoring on four of their 10 attempts, Idaho was the clear winner of the rebounding battle, with the Vandals coming down with 18 boards against the Lumberjacks’ 13. Vandals senior forward Scott Blakney had a strong showing in the first half, making his presence felt inside the paint with 12 points and four rebounds.
Both teams were competitive in the first half. However, the turnover bug bit the Lumberjacks and the Vandals with NAU committing eight and Idaho having nine of their own.
The Lumberjacks came into the second half with a slim 34-31 lead, and although the first seven minutes of the second half saw more battling and lead exchanges, the Lumberjacks began to find their stride and jumped to a 47-40 lead. Their seven-point lead grew to a 12-point lead with 10 minutes to go in the game. Shelton, once again, put the team on his back, leading the team in points and assists.
Although NAU took control for most of the second half, their 12-point lead quickly evaporated as the Vandals got hot late in the game and tied it 67-67 with two minutes to go. Shelton tried to put the Lumberjacks back on top, but Blakney met him at the rim and blocked his shot.
The Vandals were able to get back in transition quickly and scored a fastbreak 3-point shot to put them up. However, redshirt junior forward Keith Haymon came up big for NAU as he responded right back with a three of his own to tie the game at 70 with 20 seconds left.
Idaho had a chance to put the game away, but with time expiring, they weren't able to get the ball in the basket, sending the game to overtime.
With one minute left in overtime, NAU was able to get a 79-76 lead, but Avdalovic committed his sixth personal foul and was disqualified from the game.
After two clutch free throws for Idaho, NAU held on to a one point lead. Redshirt junior forward Nik Mains missed a 3-pointer, but Shelton was there to collect the rebound and was immediately fouled by Idaho. Shelton sank both his free throws to bring the lead back to three for the Lumberjacks with six seconds left, giving the Vandals a chance to tie the game.
The Vandals got a shot off, but redshirt junior guard Jay Green came up with a huge block to clinch the game. NAU went on to win 83-78.
Shelton finished with a career-high 30 points, while collecting six rebounds and seven assists. This performance marks Shelton’s sixth-straight game with 20 or more points, holding his position as the Big Sky Conference's leading scorer.
This win brings NAU’s overall record to 3-6, with a conference record of 2-1. The Lumberjacks will get a 5-day rest period before they return to Flagstaff for their next game against Idaho State University Jan. 7.