After two losses in late December, Jacks prepare for the new year

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After a pair of mid-December Big Sky Conference games in Flagstaff against the Montana schools, the NAU Lumberjacks (4-8, 1-1 BSC) hit the road during the holidays to face the University of Colorado Buffaloes (10-2), and the Brigham Young University Cougars (10-4).

Outmatched in each game, NAU lost the two by a combined 77 points. However, the performances should not be considered a step back in the Lumberjacks’ level of play overall. While the losses count against their record, hopefully the poor results will not affect the Lumberjacks confidence-wise, as they return to conference play.

Already an undersized team with scant depth in the front-court, NAU allowed 48 points in the paint to Colorado and 40 to BYU. The game against the Cougars provided an excellent example of the Lumberjacks’ inability to handle talented big men as senior forward Brandon Davies dominated with 27 points on 13-of-16 shooting, and added 10 rebounds.

Davies, who stands taller than any active NAU player at 6’9”, proved to be too polished and skilled to be contained by any Lumberjack big man. Luckily, NAU won’t be seeing many players of Davies’ caliber in the Big Sky.

Specifically, freshman guard DeWayne Russell and senior guard Gabe Rogers need to move past their games against the higher level of competition, brought by Colorado and BYU.

Russell shot 34 percent from the field combined, including 20 percent from 3-point range, in the two games, and turned the ball over four times apiece in the two contests.

However, Russell played fine when compared to the nightmare performances Rogers turned in. In the two games, the senior hit only four of his 23 shots to total 17 percent. His 16 total turnovers, including 10 alone against BYU, created even more concern for NAU.

The guard combo also only managed 7 assists between them in the two games.

While these two were not the only ones to turn in ugly lines in the two games, the combo looked terrific early in the season so this stands out from the rest of the poor play.

Rogers’ current season shooting percentage of 31 both overall and from 3 is worrisome. If the Lumberjacks have a prayer of a seventh or better finish, and a place in the conference tournament, Rogers must pick it up.

Also still an issue for NAU is who takes on the role as the third scoring option. After going scoreless in 9 minutes against Colorado, senior forward Michael Dunn exploded for 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting against BYU. While 15 of the points came in garbage time during the second half, it was a positive in a game filled with little else.

With a return to a more equal level of competition these concerns die off, and NAU returns to the team who has contended in every game outside of those against major basketball programs.

The Lumberjacks return to Big Sky play when they host the Sacramento State Hornets on Jan. 3 at 6:35 p.m. local time.





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