The NAU women’s basketball team began their 2020-21 season on the road against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Wednesday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center. Prior to tipoff, redshirt junior guard Nina Radford, senior guard Lauren Orndoff and senior forward and Big Sky Conference Preseason MVP Khiarica Rasheed were scratched from the lineup due to injuries.
Without those three, it was up to head coach Loree Payne to lead a new starting lineup to victory as the Lumberjacks were able to flash their depth in a 79-75 win.
Sophomore guard Emily Rodabaugh and senior transfer guard JJ Nakai were the stars of the game for NAU as Rodabuagh dominated beyond the arc and Nakai used her strength and skill to dominate down low.
The first half was the Lumberjacks’ introduction of their deep roster as many players had the opportunity to shine with a substantial amount of playing time. Rodabaugh took advantage, as she scored 19 points and hit four 3-pointers to set a new career high. Nakai was cleared by the NCAA to compete Wednesday morning and already proved to be a significant addition in her NAU debut as she added 15 points before the half. Redshirt senior guard Jacey Bailey also made her presence felt as she hit three 3-pointers prior to halftime.
NAU slowed down offensively in the second half, shooting a measly 21.1% in the third quarter and allowing UNLV to stay in the game heading into the fourth quarter.
While the NAU offense stabilized in the final 10 minutes, they were not able to find success from beyond the arc and UNLV was able to inch their way back thanks to a scoring surge from redshirt sophomore forward Delaynie Byrne, who finished the game with 18 points.
UNLV was able to cut the lead to under 10 with three minutes remaining, but the intentional fouls and possessions proved to be the difference. The Lumberjacks were able to burn the clock with under 30 seconds left and force UNLV to foul with five seconds to go in a one-possession game. Junior guard Regan Schenck closed out the game with two clutch free throws to net the win for NAU.
The Lumberjacks head to Tucson on Sunday to take on the No. 7-ranked Arizona Wildcats.