Updated: Lumberjacks hold on for victory against Portland State
BY BRIAN GOSSET —
Updated: Northern Arizona University (NAU) jumped out to a big lead and then withstood a fierce rally by Portland State in the second half to defeat the Vikings 79–72 in the Walkup Skydome on Feb. 7.
NAU (9–14, 6–7 Big Sky Conference) had a Jekyll and Hyde moment when they seemed like they couldn’t miss in the first half, on its way to 51 points, tying its season-high for points in a half. But the Lumberjacks fell flat to start the second, going 0-for-8 before finally hitting their first attempt at the 14:58 mark. After shooting 17-of-27 in the first, NAU went 8-of-24, totaling 33 percent, in the second.
“We just had to try to stay calm, play our game, don’t get rushed. We had to get stops and on offense we were forcing shots and not sharing the ball,” said senior guard Stallon Saldivar.
NAU used a 24–10 run in the first, on its way to the 51–35 halftime lead, but the Vikings (5–15, 3–10 BSC) went on a 23–11 run to start the second to bring it back to four. Then it seemed as if the Lumberjacks had turned a corner. Starting at the five-minute mark of the second half, PSU turned it over on back-to-back possessions, the first resulting in a layup by senior guard Gabe Rogers. The second came off a score from freshman guard DeWayne Russell, but not after senior guard Michael Dunn ferociously brought down a defensive rebound.
“We been talking recently about hanging our hat on defense. You’re not always going to shoot 8-of-13 from three, but you can always play defense. Defensive rebounding and I think Saldivar and Mike Dunn epitomized that more than anybody,” said head coach Jack Murphy.
The Lumberjacks’ lead was 62–58 before the spark, and NAU used that to go on a 12–4 run to put the game away. Rogers finished with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including seven 3-pointers, tying a career best. Saldivar finished with 11 points and dished out 10 assists, his first career double-double. He was four rebounds away from also recording the school’s first triple-double. With the 10 assists, Saldivar moves into eighth of all-time assists in the Big Sky with 474.
The Lumberjacks were staring down at another Big Sky opponent wearing green and for most of the second half, it seemed as if Murphy and his team were playing North Dakota again. But NAU withstood the rally and go on to win its second consecutive game.
“It was all mental. It wasn’t anything Portland State was doing at that point of the game. We were shooting ourselves in the foot, taking quick shots, turnovers, twice in a row the big guys catching the ball and putting the ball on the floor,” Murphy said.
Rogers has scored in double digits in the past eight games now, scoring 20 or more in five of those games. But he doesn’t care about numbers, as he doesn’t even check box scores after games. With the seven 3-pointers, Rogers now sits in 11th in Big Sky all-time 3-pointers made with 213.
“I’ll appreciate the numbers more when I’m done playing. The next couple weeks, I’m going to get my mind off stats because I was worrying about that kind of stuff in the beginning of the year. But as soon as this year is over, I can really focus on that stuff and I’ll raise my eyes at the kind of stuff I was able to do,” Rogers said.