If it wasn’t bad enough getting blown out by an in-state rival in the form of the University of Arizona, then try getting ran out of your home opener by the University of California, Riverside.
This was the case Thursday evening as the Lumberjacks were dominated by the Highlanders in what turned into a showcase for the Big West school.
Similar to their season-opening blowout against Arizona, NAU’s offense was out of sync and lacked any sort of chemistry. Ball and player movement was minimal as any group of five players on the court threw their hands in the air and stood motionless if their planned set failed.
NAU head coach Shane Burcar took responsibility for the team’s performance.
“I think I’m giving them too much freedom,” Burcar said. “We may have to script out our offense moving forward.”
The Lumberjacks once again prayed for production from redshirt junior guard Luke Avdalovic and junior guard Cameron Shelton. Force-feeding Avdalovic did not pay off as he only shot 3-of-7 in the first half. Granted, he was the leading scorer with nine points. As for Shelton, the Highlanders neutralized his speed and were able to take many of NAU’s possessions out of his hands. It paid off as he had no points on only three shot attempts.
NAU finished the half at a grizzly 17.4% from the field. Meanwhile, UC Riverside couldn’t miss in the first half as they made shot after shot, several 3-pointers and pushed the lead to 30 points. The team shot a blazing 59.3% from the field and made 8-of-14 from beyond the arc.
The first half ended with the Highlanders up 43-16, which is the lowest total NAU has scored in a half under head coach Shane Burcar. This is also the lowest they’ve scored in a half as a program since scoring only 13 points in the second half in a loss to Arizona back on Dec. 16, 2015.
In the second half, UC Riverside took their foot off the gas and allowed NAU’s offense to find some success.
Shelton was able to drive to the basket and draw fouls, leading to a 9-of-13 half from the charity stripe. He finished the game with 13 points but shot only 2-of-9 from the field.
Once again, Shelton and Avdalovic were responsible for half of the Lumberjacks’ scoring as Avdalovic added 12 points in the losing effort, resulting in the two producing 50% of the team’s points.
As a team, UC Riverside finished shooting at a 52.7% clip on 55 attempts and made half of their 3-point attempts as they made 13-of-28.
The 50 total points for the game were also the lowest under Burcar, and the lowest scoring game for NAU basketball since Jan. 26, 2019 when they only scored 48 points in a home loss to the University of Northern Colorado.
The Lumberjacks are now 0-2 to the start season, while UC Riverside improved to 3-1.
Prior to NAU’s next few games, Burcar said the team needs to do some soul-searching or this start to the season will just be the beginning of their problems.
According to NAU Athletics, the Lumberjacks added a game to their schedule and will do battle with Colorado State University on Monday in their next matchup.