Two teams at the bottom of the Big Sky conference standings, the Northern Colorado Bears (7-14, 2-7 Big Sky) and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (6-16, 2-7 Big Sky), faced off in the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome on Jan. 28. The Lumberjacks held on at home to snap a five-game losing streak with an 83-73 victory. 

The Bears won the opening tip, and grad student guard Matt Johnson II promptly shot a three pointer from the top of the key to start the scoring. NAU’s own grad student guard, Xavier Fuller, opened up scoring for the Lumberjacks in the same way, although his shot was from the corner. 

Immediately after the three, Fuller took a rebound coast to coast to score a quick layup. 

Fuller was a key player for NAU in the first half, and continued on his big game from last week with 11 first-half points, five rebounds and three assists. Beyond just scoring, he showed off his playmaking skills, dishing out multiple passes to redshirt sophomore forward Carson Towt for easy points. 

After the first media timeout, both teams were knotted at 11 apiece, and coincidentally both shot five of nine from the floor. 

Both teams cooled off after coming out of the timeout, collectively missing their first nine field goal attempts. Sophomore guard Liam Lloyd snapped this drought with a three pointer on a fastbreak opportunity. 

The Lumberjacks would continue to be relentless on defense in the first half leading to prime offensive chances.

Head coach Shane Burcar was especially impressed with sophomore guard Trent McLaughlin.

“He’s everything, his size, his length, his toughness,” Burcar said.

NAU then went on a 15-2 run, highlighted by a Xavier Fuller reverse layup around a defender.

The Lumberjacks benefitted from Liam Lloyd’s team mentality. Lloyd drew three charges in the game, one of them helped to extend the massive run that put NAU ahead 42-23 at the half.

Northern Colorado came out hot to start the second half, clamping down on defense and knocking down jump shots and free throws to slice the Lumberjack lead down to just seven.

This scoring outburst was in large part thanks to senior guard Dalton Knecht, who poured in 21 points in the second half. He would finish with 27 points and eight rebounds.

Redshirt senior forward Nik Mains scored a turnaround jump shot to begin the half for the NAU side. This game was Mains 136th as a Lumberjack, the most in school history. He would also hit a three-pointer later in the half to put himself in a tie for sixth place all-time on the all-time threes leaderboard.

The Bears would close the gap even further in the middle of the half, going on a 17-5 run to close their deficit to only six points. It was the aforementioned Knecht who engineered the run.

NAU would respond to this run with a smaller run of their own that pushed the lead back to double digits. This run was punctuated by a Towt dunk that put everyone in the Skydome on their feet. 

Knecht put forth a very concerted attempt to get Northern Colorado back in the game, but Fuller poured in 14 second half points to keep the Bears out of reach.

With three minutes left, McLaughlin connected on an acrobatic and-one that saw him explode with emotion. He made the ensuing free throw to essentially put the Bears away.

Knect would not be denied one last laugh, and dunked on Towt on Northern Colorado’s next possession. The two of them then went chest to chest and exchanged words causing the referees to step in and alleviate the situation.

Fuller ran into transition and quickly slammed in a dunk to cap off his career-high 25 point night. 

Getting the win meant more to Fuller than his performance.

“I mean they're only big if you get the job done and win the game … Carson [Towt] said that we have to get hot at the right time, I think that's what we did. We didn’t look back,” Fuller said.

The Lumberjacks finished the job and got a win for the first time since Jan. 5, breaking a five game losing streak. The final score was 83-73.

NAU has now played every Big Sky team once and will travel to Bozeman, Montana on Feb. 2, to play the Montana State Bobcats at 7 p.m. MST. Northern Colorado will go to Missoula, Montana to play the Grizzlies on Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. MST. Both games will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

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