SECOND-PLACE NORTHERN ARIZONA GETS PAST MENâ€™S BASKETBALL
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Northern Arizona’s Josh Wilson scored a game-high 16 points and the Lumberjacks limited Sacramento State to 34.5 percent (19-55) shooting from the field on the way to a 73-59 victory over the Hornets in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Thursday evening at the Walkup Skydome.
With the victory, Northern Arizona (17-10, 9-5) remains all alone in second place in the Big Sky standings, 2.5 games behind first-place Portland State. The top two teams in the Big Sky standings at the end of the regular season receive a first-round bye in the Big Sky Tournament (March 8-12), and if the season ended today, NAU would have a bye in the quarterfinals. NAU improved to 23-9 all-time against Sacramento State, including 14-2 in Flagstaff.
Sacramento State (4-21, 2-12) lost its fifth in a row, and has just three games remaining on the schedule as tonight marked the team’s final Big Sky road game of the season. The Hornets’ remaining games will come at home against Idaho State (Feb. 21), on the road at UC Davis (March 1), and the season finale at home against Weber State on March 3.
Northern Arizona led from start to finish, jumping out to a 15-5 lead at the 6:52 mark of the first half, and leading by double figures the rest of the way. Sacramento State never trailed by anything more than 18 points and cut NAU’s lead to 10 points (65-55) with 2:00 remaining, but that was as close as the team would come.
After a Loren Leath three-pointer drew Sacramento State within one point (12-11) of the Lumberjacks’ lead with 13:07 left in the first half, NAU went on a 13-4 run over the next 6:15 to establish a 10-point lead. NAU would then lead by double figures the final 26:52 of game clock.
Poor shooting proved to be part of the Hornets’ downfall as the team shot just 34.5 percent from the field, 33.3 percent (6-18) from beyond the three-point arc and 60.0 percent (15-25) from the free throw line. Leath, who is the Hornets’ leading scorer, shot just 3-of-16 from the field, including 1-of-6 from the three-point line. In addition, the Lumberjacks turned 17 Sacramento State turnovers into 28 points and held the Hornets without a fast-break point during the entire contest.
Wilson’s 16 points came with five assists, one steal and 4-of-7 shooting from the field. He was joined in double figures by Nate Geiser (14 points, five rebounds) and Kyle Landry (10 points, 10 rebounds). The Lumberjacks shot 42.0 percent (21-50) from the field and 42.9 percent (9-21) from beyond the three-point line.
Sacramento State’s most active player was senior Justin Williams, who finished with a team-high tying 12 points to go along with team bests in rebounds (6), assists (3) and steals (4). He also added a blocked shot and shot 4-of-8 from the field in 30 minutes. Also scoring 12 points for the Hornets was senior Clark Woods, who was 4-of-7 from the field with each attempt coming from behind the three-point line. After missing the last two games with the flu, junior Donald Thomas chipped in seven points, two rebounds and two assists.
NAU held just a 39-36 rebounding edge against the Hornets, but the Lumberjacks were able to outscore the Hornets, 28-10, in the points off turnovers department.
Sacramento State sophomore guard Alonzo Young did not play because of an ankle injury, and Hornet players have now missed a combined 102 games this season, primarily due to injuries.