GAME NOTES: The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks get another chance to end a losing streak on Saturday, as they go up against the Idaho State Bengals in a Big Sky Conference game at Walkup Skydome.
Idaho State has dropped three of its last four games, falling to 7-11 overall and below .500 in league play (4-5) as well. The Bengals have been especially week on the road (1-8), but they will be at home in their next two games against Northern Colorado and North Dakota.
On Thursday, NAU hosted Weber State in the first half of this brief two-game homestand, but fell short in a 76-67 decision. The loss was the third straight for the Lumberjacks, who are doing a bit better than the Bengals, with an 8-12 overall record and a 5-4 mark against the rest of the Big Sky. They take to the road next to face Sacramento State.
Northern Arizona swept the season series with Idaho State last year, although the two contests were decided by a combined 14 points. The Bengals still lead the all-time series with 50 wins in 92 matchups.
Idaho State was down 52-27 at halftime against Sacramento State, but the Bengals managed to knock down 7-of-16 shots from beyond the arc as part of a 48.6 percent overall shooting effort in the second half, but it did nothing more than put a dent in the deficit.
Tomas Sanchez (14.8 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Andre Hatchett (15 ppg, 6 rpg) each scored 17 points in the losing effort, while leading scorer Chris Hansen (17.2 ppg) tallied 15. Hansen has reached double figures in all but two games this season, including six 20-point efforts. Sanchez is more than capable of scoring on his own, but is also third in the Big Sky in assists. Hatchett is another strong scorer in the backcourt. However, the trio does not get much support, with Jeffrey Solarin (8.9 ppg) one of only two other players putting in more than three ppg.
Max Jacobsen scored 18 points, but he was out-dueled by Weber State's DAvion Berry, who tallied 28 points in the Wildcats' recent win over the Lumberjacks. NAU hit only 41.4 percent of its shots from the floor, while being on the short end of a 39-28 margin on the boards.
Northern Arizona rarely puts up much of a fight on offense, ranking near the bottom of the conference in scoring (68.2 ppg), while shooting 45.6 percent from the field. However, the Lumberjacks have kept teams in range, limiting them to less than 70 ppg. Quinton Upshur (15.4 ppg) and Jacobsen (14 ppg) are the top scoring threats for the unit, with Upshur adding 15 points to Jacobsen's team-high on Thursday. Aaseem Dixon (12.3 ppg) is not just the only other contributor scoring in double figures, but the only one putting in more than 8.5 ppg for a team that has a severe lack of depth.
The Lumberjacks have had some success in league play, aside from their recent slide. Although they are not an overly impressive home team (5-2) they certainly have an edge on the Bengals, who have been miserable on the road.
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