In the team's first game in the 2021 Big Sky Conference Tournament, the NAU Lumberjacks got senior guard JJ Nakai back in the lineup in a game where the team leaned on its veterans. On this International Women’s Day matchup, No. 7 NAU beat the No. 10 Weber State Wildcats, 82-68.
The Lumberjacks started the game with a shooting frenzy and were aggressively running in transition. Defensively, NAU made a strong effort to stop Weber State’s paint-oriented attack.
NAU spaced the floor well, allowing senior forward Khiarica Rasheed to dominate in the paint early. Rasheed controlled the interior with her rebounding and post scoring and was just named to the All-Big Sky third team for her consistency this season.
Early in the game, the Lumberjacks pounded the offensive glass and made an effort to kick it out to open teammates. Nakai and other shooters in the NAU offense capitalized on the opportunities provided by second-chance points, a category they outscored Weber State by six in the contest.
Like in previous games, the Lumberjacks mixed in some full-court press coverage to influence turnovers and forced the Wildcats to throw it away 19 times to NAU’s six.
For the Wildcats, sophomore forward Jaydn Matthews was a strong presence with 17 points and six rebounds, but her team could not contain NAU’s Nakai and senior guard Miki’ala Maio, who combined for 42 points.
The veterans stepped up for the Lumberjacks and caught fire from 3-point land with Nakai hitting five and Maio three.
Foul trouble started to become an issue in the fourth quarter as Nakai had to go to the bench due to back-to-back fouls. The Lumberjacks had four team fouls with around seven minutes left in the game. Also in foul trouble was Rasheed, and the Lumberjacks needed to hold on to preserve a lead. NAU survived in the end and will advance to the next round of the tournament.
“I was never comfortable during the game,” NAU head coach Loree Payne said.
The Lumberjacks move on to face the No. 2-seeded Idaho Vandals Tuesday at 5 p.m.