Following a two-week hiatus, NAU women’s basketball returned to action and resumed Big Sky Conference play against the University of Idaho in a New Year’s Eve showdown.
This was a statement game for the Lumberjacks as they defeated the preseason conference favorites in the Vandals by a score of 84-62.
“It feels good,” head coach Loree Payne said. “We haven’t been at full strength for one game this year, so we are excited to get that opportunity when we are rolling on all cylinders.”
Big Sky Preseason MVP and senior forward Khiarica Rasheed made her first start of the 2020 season Thursday evening after playing limited minutes in her season debut against the University of Texas, El Paso. However, the Lumberjacks missed a key asset as senior guard JJ Nakai did not play.
“She’s just not 100%,” Payne said. “We’re working with the training staff to get her healthy and once we do, she’ll be back on the court.”
Early on, Nakai’s absence was no problem for NAU as their offense remained fluid, allowing for shots to fall with ease. Rasheed made her presence known, opening the game with seven of the Lumberjacks’ first nine points. Following her, junior guard Regan Schenck and sophomore forward Emily Rodabaugh dominated from beyond the arc helping NAU shoot 5-of-7 from 3-point to take a 20-point lead by the end of the quarter.
The offensive success was short lived as the Vandals trimmed the lead in the second quarter thanks to second chance points and the Lumberjacks turning the ball over. Senior forward Natalie Klinker guided Idaho’s successful second quarter with six points and a handful of rebounds.
By halftime, the Lumberjacks only finished the quarter with eight points, but thanks to the blazing first quarter, they still led by double digits.
Idaho saw more of the same success in the third quarter and were able to cut the lead down to 10 after a 15-2 spurt midway through.
However, NAU responded with a 9-0 scoring run to end the third quarter and extend their lead to 66-49 entering the final 10 minutes.
The final frame saw the Lumberjacks in cruise control as Schenck carried the biggest chunk of the offensive production. She finished the game one point shy of her career high with 23 points. She shot 9-of-14 and made all three of her attempts from beyond the arc.
“I truly feel like she’s [Schenck] the difference maker this year for us,” Payne said. “She’s grown and matured so much as a player. She controlled the tempo of the game.”
Freshman forward Nyah Moran had her first double-digit performance with 11 points. Rasheed, Rodabugh and senior guard Miki’ala Maio also finished in double digits.
The Lumberjacks improve to 5-2 on the season and remain undefeated in Big Sky play. They will rematch with Idaho on Saturday.
NAU men pull away late to earn first conference win
The NAU men’s basketball team has struggled through the early portion of the season, but they closed out 2020 on a high note as they defeated Idaho on the road by double digits, 78-65.
It was a tight, back-and-forth affair until the midway point of the second half as NAU’s offense began to find success and take advantage of the Vandal’s defensive lapses.
NAU shot 53.6% in the second half and were led by junior guard Cameron Shelton once again as he put up his fifth consecutive 20-point performance. Redshirt junior guard Luke Avdalovic got back on track with a 4-of-6 night from beyond the arc to cap a 17-point evening. The two brought back the trend of being responsible for over half of the offensive production as they combined for 41 of the Lumberjacks’ 78 points.
Similar to the women, the NAU men will play Idaho on the road Saturday afternoon.