Women's basketball ends season with three straight loses

NAU redshirt junior guard Caitlin Malvar (3) looks for an opening while Portland State University freshman guard Belle Frazier (35) blocks her at Walkup Skydome, March 4.

It was Senior Night for the NAU women's basketball team as they took on Portland State University (PSU) Vikings at the Walkup Skydome Wednesday night to close out the regular season. After a somewhat competitive game, Portland State pulled off a win against NAU 68-63.

Both teams were hitting from all over the floor to start the game but that momentum quickly wore off, especially for NAU. It got to a point where the band was providing most of the game's entertainment. However, it did not apply to PSU sophomore guard Desirae Hansen. She scored the first 10 points for PSU and carried them for the rest of the half. She ended with 19 points in the half, shooting 7-14 from the field, 4-9 from three and was the only player for the Vikings to score more than one bucket before halftime.

NAU shot a dreadful 9-30 in the first half and had a hard time keeping control of the ball with 10 turnovers. At times, NAU did provide some defensive pressure in a full-court press. It didn’t make life easy for PSU in the paint but NAU was abysmal defending the perimeter. The Vikings capitalized by making seven 3-pointers as they jumped out to an 8-point lead to end the half.

Going into the second half, NAU managed to slow down Hansen but other players stepped up for PSU, and NAU was missing defensive assignments all night. The Lumberjacks managed to keep it a close game throughout the half and even cut it down to a 1-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings kept them at bay.

NAU kept it exciting at the end. The Lumberjacks were down by three with 12 seconds left and no timeouts. Head coach Loree Payne decided to go for a quick 2-pointer and try to foul, but they missed the jumper and PSU capped the game with two free throws. PSU eventually won the game 68-63, extending NAU’s losing streak to three games to end the season and suffered its 10th straight loss to the Vikings.

Poor execution offensively was the main determining factor in this one, which was missing easy shots, making unforced turnovers, not capitalizing on free throws and what Payne described as a lack of discipline.

“At this point in the season, we have to be making wide-open shots if we’re going to win,” Payne said. “I felt like we were hesitant, we would look, look, look, and then make the pass, and they're no longer open at that point or we would be open and wonder if we should shoot or not.”

Payne was not ecstatic about how her team played and might look to change the game plan moving forward.

“We have a handful of players who aren’t dialed into the system. They’re not doing what we asked them to do and that’s frustrating,” Payne said. "We’re going to rotate if you’re not doing your job and right now, I feel like some of our starters aren’t doing their job.”

Due to Southern Utah University's loss Wednesday, NAU clinched a first-round bye in the Big Sky Conference Tournament, which starts Monday against an undetermined opponent. Heading into the tournament, Payne wants her players to get in the gym, work on their shots, get their shooting percentages up and shake off these last three games, which have been a season-low for them.