Men’s basketball wins 6th straight
Coming off an undefeated road trip from one end of the country to the other, the NAU men’s basketball team relished to get back to their home court and showed it in a big way, routing the Bethany College Bruins 91–50 at the Rolle Activity Center last Saturday night. The win was the sixth consecutive for NAU; conversely, the loss was the 19th straight for the NAIA school from California, dating back to last season.
“It was a tough game because the opponent is overmatched,” said head coach Mike Adras. “You wonder how much the guys are going to stay focused. But I thought we did a pretty good job tonight.”
Facing a severely undersized Bruins team, Adras laid out the message for his team early to get the ball inside. The Lumberjacks pounded paint, scoring 62 points from the region and only hitting three shots from 3-point distance.
Junior center Josh Lepley scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots.
“Coach told us we should dominate in the paint tonight,” Lepley said. “That’s what I went out to do. Block shots, rebound and score a little bit.”
The play of the 6-foot, 8-inch junior did not get overlooked by his head coach.
“It was terrific,” Adras said. “Give guys credit for getting him the ball, but give him credit because he was able to finish. [He] really did some nice things out there.”
Other contributions from the post came from redshirt sophomore forward Austin Smith, who finished with 12 points and eight boards, and senior forward Shane Johannsen, who netted 11 points of his own.
Early on, the game went back and forth, with neither team really gaining a big advantage on the scoreboard. After a jumper by the Bruins’ Travis Derochowski made the score 20–17 with 10:42 left in the first half, the Lumberjacks took off on a 24–5 run that spanned 7:41 and pushed the lead to 44–22. The run was keyed by the play of Lepley and Smith, who each had close-range shots during the stretch.
In the final 20 minutes, the Lumberjacks opened up their offense a little more and ran the Bruins up and down the court. From the 15:38 mark to the 11:51 point, NAU poured a 17–2 stretch aided by BC turnovers and six straight points of Jones’ eventual total of 20.
“I felt like we were a little dead and needed a spark on offense,” Jones said. “That’s my job with being a captain and being a leader — I’ve got to make plays when things are down.”
Perhaps the highlight of the game came at the tail end of the run. Following a time-out, on an inbounds play from behind the backboard, junior point guard Julian Olubuyi lofted a pass high in the air, which junior guard Durrell Norman caught and brought down with authority, putting in the alley-oop and sending shockwaves through the building.
“We’d never practiced that,” Adras said. “I know how well Durrell jumps. Cam [Jones] set a great screen, Durrell did what he was supposed to, and Julian made the play because he made the perfect pass. It kind of made some noise in the building afterwards. We would have never had done that unless there was a time-out.”
NAU’s largest lead in the first half was 21 points. In the second half, the team extended that to a 44-point advantage, allowing Adras to rest his starters and give minutes to every player on the bench.