FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Northern Arizona shot a blazing 11-of-16 from the 3-point line (.688) and didn't trail the final 15 minutes of the contest on the way to a 75-65 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday evening at the Walkup Skydome.
The Lumberjacks got the majority of their 3-pointers from Quinton Upshur (5-for-5) and Aaseem Dixon (5-for-9) who combined to go 10-for-14 from distance. Northern Arizona also used a healthy advantage at the free throw line that saw the Lumberjacks attempt 18 more freebies than the Hornets. The Lumberjacks went 16-for-28 from the charity stripe while the Hornets went just 5-for-10. NAU shot 23 free throws in the second half compared to just three for the Hornets.
Sacramento State also shot well from beyond the arc, knocking down 10-of-18 (.556) from distance, but converted on 11 less free throws which proved to be the difference in the game. Both teams shot nearly identical percentages from the field, including .481 (25-52) for the Hornets, and .480 (24-50) for the Lumberjacks.
With the loss, Sacramento State, which was playing the third leg of its four-game road trip to open the conference season, dropped to 4-8 overall and 0-3 on the road. The Hornets have now lost three straight games for the first time since the end of the 2011-12 season. Sacramento State is the only team in the conference that will play each of its first four Big Sky games on the road, and the team will conclude the road trip Saturday evening at Southern Utah.
Northern Arizona, which a week ago dealt Montana its first home loss to a conference opponent in over three years, improved to 5-9 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky. The Hornets continue to have trouble on the road at NAU as the team is now 2-20 all-time against the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff.
Neither team led by more than seven points in an entertaining first half that saw Sacramento State eventually grab a 32-31 lead at the break. The score was tied on four separate occasions during the first 4:30 of the second half before NAU went on a 14-3 run to take a game-high 13-point lead (56-43) with 7:15 to play. During the run, NAU buried four 3-pointers, including triples on back-to-back possessions by Upshur. In fact, Upshur buried three 3-pointers during the spurt, and 11 of his 18 points came in the second half.
Sacramento State did claw back to within six points of the NAU lead on three different occasions late in the game, but the Lumberjacks responded by scoring on their next possession each time to keep the contest at a three-possession game. The Hornets drained four 3-pointers during the game's final 4:37 to make things interesting.
NAU held healthy advantages over the Hornets in rebounding (33-26) and points off turnovers (20-12). Sacramento State did turn eight offensive rebounds into eight second-chance points, and outscored the Lumberjacks, 26-16, in points in the paint.
For the Hornets, junior Mikh McKinney led the way with 15 points, four rebounds, six assists, and shot 6-of-11 from the field and 2-for-4 from the 3-point line. The shooting guard also had just one turnover in 34 minutes of play, and 10 of his points came in the second half. Joining McKinney in double figures was junior point guard Dylan Garrity who had 12 points and three assists in 34 minutes, knocking down 4-of-6 attempts from the 3-point line.
Swingman Cody Demps added nine points and four rebounds for the Hornets, true freshman Nick Hornsby chipped in five points, two assists and a team-best five rebounds despite playing just 10 minutes, and post players Alex Tiffin and Jordan Salley both had six points. Six different Sacramento State players buried at least one 3-pointer, including Garrity, McKinney, Demps, Hornsby, Zach Mills and Dreon Barlett. Mills had scored at least 14 points in the first two conference games before finishing with five tonight.
For NAU, Dixon (22), Upshur (18) and Max Jacobsen (17) combined for 57 of the team's 75 points and all three players finished the game shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Both Jacobsen and Dixon were 7-for-13 from the floor. Gaellan Bewernick, Len Springs and Dixon each had seven rebounds.
Sacramento State will play Saturday night at Southern Utah at 6:05 p.m. PST. After that contest, the Hornets will play six of their next eight games at home, including next week on Thursday vs. Portland State and Saturday vs. Eastern Washington.