LJ basketball

A fresh start to college basketball always brings excitement and optimism to many fan bases across the country. Unfortunately, for the NAU community and Flagstaff faithful, it was the same old song and dance as the men’s basketball team dropped its 35th-straight meeting to UArizona Tuesday evening. 

With the transfers of Cameron Shelton (Loyola Marymount University) and Luke Avdalovic (University of the Pacific), an opportunity for a new floor general and leader opened to the roster. 

The man expected to take the reins for NAU basketball was sophomore guard Jalen Cone, who transferred from Virginia Tech. An opening three-pointer off the dribble from Cone seemed to signal that new leadership, but it did not take long for the Wildcats to expose Cone’s 5-foot-11 frame and force the ball into the hands of other Lumberjacks. 

Redshirt sophomore forward Keith Haymon and sophomore guard Isaiah Lewis needed to be the guys to step up for NAU if they were to have a shot at impressing against the Pac-12 Conference powerhouse. 

Instead, Lewis went 0/4 from the field, while Haymon struggled to find a rhythm with only seven points on 3/7 shooting. 

Due to the struggles of the wing shooters for the Lumberjacks, Cone was erratic for most of the game with errant passes, forced shots and foul trouble that led to a forgettable debut. He finished his first Lumberjack appearance with seven points on 3/11 shooting, four fouls and eight turnovers. 

Turnovers were a massive problem for NAU all night. UArizona players were gritty on the floor and quick with their hands to intercept passes and set up easy fast break points. In total, the Lumberjacks surrendered 21 turnovers and allowed 21 fast break points to the Wildcats. The ludicrous amount of turnovers looks even worse with a turnover percentage of 30.9 on NAU possessions. 

Giving the Lumberjacks trouble all night were sophomore guards Dalen Terry and Kerr Kriisa and sophomore forward Azuolas Tubelis. 

All three players had two steals and were leaders on the offensive side of the ball as each scored in double digits. Kriisa was the main contributor for Arizona as he tallied 17 points on 6/14 shooting (4/10 from 3-point). Tubelis added 13 points, while Terry capped the night with 11. 

While redshirt freshman forward Carson Towt led the Lumberjacks in scoring with 11 points, he left a lot to be desired with a lack of interior defense and just 4/11 shooting. 

NAU surrendered 40 points in the paint due to breakdowns on defense and a lack of awareness. On a Wildcat possession after a Lumberjack basket, the team was able to drive down the court without pressure and scored an easy layup, which symbolized NAU’s play for the evening. 

The silver lining for NAU is that there is a lot of basketball to play, and Tuesday was only one game. 

Coming up Thursday, the Lumberjacks continue their Pac-12 treks with a trip to Seattle to take on the University of Washington.

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