NAU men’s basketball fall to Montana State, postseason uncertainty continues
BY CODY BASHORE
With a potential playoff berth and maybe its season on the line, the Northern Arizona University men’s basketball team came back from a 12-point halftime deficit to force overtime, but fell to Montana State University 83–79.
“There is no excuses in our locker room, we just know that we have to go out and play a very tough opponent in their building Saturday in Montana and be ready to go,” said head coach Jack Murphy.
Senior guard Gabe Rogers willed NAU (11–19, 8–11 Big Sky Conference) back into the game throughout the second half, finishing with 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including 7-of-12 from 3-point territory.
Rogers drilled a 3-pointer to make it 68–66 with NAU trailing at the 4:25 mark. The senior guard hit another 3-pointer to put NAU ahead 71–69 with just 2:27 left in the game before Montana State (12–16, 9–10 BSC) retook a 73–71 lead with 29 seconds left.
Rogers again brought the Lumberjacks back with two free throws with 17 seconds left to tie it at 73 before the game moved to overtime.
“He has been fantastic. Everytime you think he can’t do it again, he does it again. He’s really been the cog in our offense and getting us going. I hate to think where we would be without him,” Murphy said.
After struggling as the first half came to a close, NAU compiled a 9–0 run to chip away at the lead and make it a five-point game 2:12 into the second half. However, Montana State responded with a 11–0 run to push back ahead 68–61 with 6:05 remaining.
NAU trailed 47–35 at the half after allowing Montana State to go on an 11–3 run during the half’s final 3:05. The Bobcats shot 60 percent in the opening half, while the Lumberjacks were just behind at 54 percent. Turnovers were the difference in the first half as NAU tallied eight to MSU’s three. The two schools played dead even through the first half other than the turnover total.
“It was our lack of effort in the first half defensively that put us in that jam. I think if you went in that locker room right now our players would say, to a man, we didn’t play up to our abilities in that first half defensively,” Murphy said.
The Lumberjacks only lead for a brief moment midway through the first half, never extending it by more than two.
NAU now travels to the University of Montana (22–6, 18–1 BSC), the conference leader, for the final game of the season. The Lumberjacks can make the Big Sky Conference tournament with a victory or a loss by Sacramento State, who face Montana State, on March 9.