POOR FREE THROW SHOOTING DOOMS MENâ€™S BASKETBALL IN LOSS AT NORTHERN ARIZONA
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Sacramento State missed 25 free throws (.479, 23-for-48) and Northern Arizona’s Nathan Geiser scored a game-high 27 points as the Lumberjacks defeated the Hornets, 96-82, in the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball opener Thursday evening at the Walkup Skydome.
Free throws proved to be the difference as NAU was whistled for 33 fouls. Sacramento State, however, could not capitalize on the freebies, shooting 9-for-21 (.429) from the charity stripe in the first half, and 14-for-27 (.519) in the second half. The Big Sky’s worst free throw shooting team, the Hornets entered the game shooting just 58.4 percent from the line, and that mark dropped to 56.6 percent after tonight’s showing.
With the victory, Northern Arizona improved to 6-6 overall and 1-0 in the conference. The Lumberjacks are now 5-0 at home this year, and have won each of those games by at least 14 points. In addition, NAU has won 15 consecutive regular season games at the Walkup Skydome dating back to last year.
With the loss, Sacramento State dropped to 5-8 overall and 0-1 in the Big Sky. The Hornets continued to struggle on the road, losing their fifth in a row while dropping to 1-7 away from the friendly confines. Sacramento State fell to 3-8 in Big Sky openers since joining the league in 1996-97.
Northern Arizona shot a blistering 64.6 percent (31-48) from the field, and a ridiculous 81.8 percent (9-11) from the three-point line. Geiser finished the contest 9-of-10 from the field and 6-of-6 from beyond the three-point line. Ruben Boykin, Jr., added 20 points and a game-high eight rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. Joining Geiser and Boykin in double figures for NAU were Tyrone Bazy (18 points, six rebounds) and Ryan McCurdy (12 points).
Sacramento State forced Northern Arizona into 25 turnovers, which included three steals each from Alex Bausley and Roderick Adams. The Hornets shot 52.9 percent (27-for-51) from the field, but were outrebounded, 37-21. That included a 20-9 rebounding disparity in the second half.
Sacramento State had four players score in double figures, comprised of junior Angel Alamo (17 points, seven rebounds, 8-of-13 shooting), freshman Alonzo Young (season-high 15 points), Adams (13 points, three steals) and senior Haron Hargrave (10 points). Bausley added nine points and three steals, and sophomore Loren Leath added nine points and a pair of three-pointers.
After two free throws from Curtis Harrison gave the Hornets a 27-19 lead with 8:49 remaining in the first half, Northern Arizona closed the half on a 30-8 run to take a 49-35 halftime lead. During the run, the Hornets shot a dreadful 3-of-14 from the free throw line, while missing the front end of all three 1-and-1 free throw situations. Bazy scored 10 points, Geiser added eight, and McCurdy six during the run which spanned the final 8:34 of the first half.
Northern Arizona led by at least 12 points during the entire second half as the Lumberjacks put the game away by shooting 60.0 percent (15-25) from the field and 72.2 percent (13-18) from the free throw line during the second stanza.
Sacramento State returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 30, when the team travels to Greeley, Colo., for its first-ever meeting with conference newcomer Northern Colorado. However, the Hornets are supposed to fly into Denver tomorrow, but with problems all week long with the weather in the Denver area, the team could struggle getting to its destination.
NOTE – The game started 10 minutes late while waiting for officials who got stuck in poor weather conditions.