The Lumberjacks entered this matchup having missed their previous game with Portland State due to COVID-19 protocols. The tenth seeded Lumberjacks were looking to get back on track following a four-game skid that followed five canceled games for the Lumberjacks. Portland State hadn’t done much better in the late season, winning just one of their last four games. The winner of this game would advance and face to Eastern Washington Eagles.
After trading blows, just past the five-minute mark, the Lumberjacks caught fire, going on an 8-0 in the span of just under a minute. Redshirt Junior Nik Mains hit two 3-pointers from the top of the arc in order to give the Lumberjacks breathing room, 15-7. The Lumberjack’s 3-point shooting would be a key part of their early game plan, starting 6-6 from beyond the arc.
“We’ve got some weapons with us,” Coach Shane Burcar said of the team's impressive shooting. “Every member of our starting five, with the exception of our five-man who hasn’t shot a three all year, is shooting over 35%, so with those weapons it's important to keep the ball out of our hands.”
The Lumberjack’s first hiccup of the day came when Junior Cameron Shelton picked up his first two fouls on back-to-back offensive possessions. Shelton, who was voted to the Big Sky all first team, has been a key piece for NAU this season. Despite being kept scoreless in this game, Shelton recorded three assists. The Lumberjack offense began to slow without its star, but the defense held strong, preserving the Lumberjack lead. The Lumberjack offense found their footing and began to stretch their lead.
Just after Shelton reentered the game, the Lumberjacks lost another key piece of their offense. Mains went down, appearing to roll his ankle on an inbounds play. Mains needed help getting off the floor. The Lumberjack offense didn’t miss a beat. Led by Redshirt Junior Luke Avdalovic who finished the half with 15 points, they entered the locker room leading 44-27.
“Historically, the way we play Portland State, I usually get some good looks and I attest that to our preparation and our point guards,” Avdalovic said after the game.
The second half opened very similarly to the first, with the two teams trading buckets, NAU unable to stretch their lead. Despite Shelton missing significant time in the second half after picking up his third, the Lumberjacks defense once again held strong and the offense rallied around Avdalovic and Redshirt Sophomore Kieth Haymon. Despite starting to chip away several times, the Vikings couldn’t get a run together until it was too late and the Lumberjacks walked away with a 77-66 win.
The Lumberjacks now face second-seeded Eastern Washington — their one meeting this season was an Eagles victory. The Matchup will take place in Boise, Idaho at 5 p.m.