Jacobsen’s career 22 leads Jacks over Montana State
By Kevin Bertram —
Junior forward Max Jacobsen had only started once in his Lumberjack career prior to being placed in the starting lineup Monday night. After leading the Jacks to an 87-80 win in their first Big Sky Conference win of the year against the Montana State Bobcats, he seemed to send a message that he would like to stay there.
Head coach Jack Murphy said Jacobsen — who finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting with nine rebounds — will be a starting forward for the Jacks, alongside Gaellen Bewernick, moving forward into conference play.
“Barring any injuries or unforeseen events, this is the lineup that we feel comfortable with,” Murphy said. “Obviously, there’s pressure on those guys — with freedom comes responsibility. We have all the utmost faith in those guys, and I think they’ve proven their worth tonight.”
Behind the solid interior play of Jacobsen, NAU outscored MSU 46-28 in the paint, and outrebounded the Bobcats, 40-28.
“Max Jacobsen is someone you can throw the ball to on the block and have him score and finish,” Murphy said. “He’s done really well. Starting off with the Oregon game, he showed that he could do that, and it’s progressed.”
Jacobsen credits his teammates with setting him up for his made baskets.
“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball, and when they got it for me, well, that’s my job, and I did it,” Jacobsen said.
NAU held a commanding 18-point lead at the half, but MSU made a run in the second period, forcing the Jacks into 10 additional turnovers and cooling their shooting down from 62 percent to 48 percent. The Bobcats drew within five with 43 seconds remaining off a layup by junior center Paul Egwuonwu, who finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in the game.
The Bobcats then fouled senior guard Stallon Saldivar, who converted on both of his attempts from the line to push the lead back up to seven — a NAU advantage MSU was unable to overcome. Overall, the Jacks converted 24 of their 35 free throw chances.
“What happened tonight — you can’t simulate it,” Murphy said. “Being up 18, having a locker room full of guys who hadn’t won a Big Sky game in 15 games, having that large of a lead at halftime: it’s one of those things where you’re going to have to have some learning curves. It’s going to have to happen on the fly a little bit. Hopefully, the next time we’re put in that situation, we handle it a little better.”
Jacobsen and the other NAU big men did get help from the backcourt, as freshman guard DeWayne Russell had a well-rounded game in 37 minutes of play, adding 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Saldivar, who also returned to the starting lineup in this game, chipped in 12 points and six assists — moving him past 400 assists for his career, a feat historically accomplished by only 17 other Big Sky players.
The Bobcats were led in scoring by junior guard Antonio Biglow, who finished with 15.
The Jacks tightened the rotation in the game, only playing eight players in the first half before bringing in senior forward Ephraim Ekanem in the second half.
The first half saw the Jacks grab their biggest lead of the game — 20 points — with 48 seconds left before the intermission. In the period, NAU outrebounded MSU, 21-9. Jacobsen helped pace the Jacks in the first half with ten points and five rebounds, and Russell added in 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Overall, Murphy said there are things that the team can work on moving into the future.
“There’s some glaring things we need to clean up now — like there is every game — you just go back, as a coach, to the drawing board. We have to do better with our turnovers,” Murphy said.
Echoing Murphy’s comments, Saldivar said there are things he and his teammates can work on for future conference games.
“I don’t think we were complacent,” Saldivar said. “I just don’t think we had the energy that we came out with in the first half. We have to fix that: we have to play 40 minutes of basketball.”
Entering the game, Russell ranked seventh amongst active NCAA Division I freshmen in scoring, averaging 17.1 points-per-game. He also leads the Big Sky Conference overall in scoring.
This game is part one of a quick, two-game set after a 12-day break, as the Jacks will next take on Montana at home on December 19. That game will tip-off at 6:35 p.m. in the Walkup Skydome.
Murphy said the team will take time to rest and enjoy the win, and work to study up on their next opponent.
“When you have such a short amount of time between games, [preparation] doesn’t happen as much in the physical aspect as it does in the mental aspect: watching tape, watching film on Montana, watching tape on this game before we get on the floor and practice Montana’s sets,” Murphy said. “A lot of it is just recovering, mentally and physically, and being ready for Wednesday night.”