GAME NOTES: Tied for the top spot in the Big Sky Conference standings heading into the weekend, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks settle in to face off against the Portland State Vikings at Walkup Skydome.
The Lumberjacks currently sport a record of 4-1 in league play, matching the effort set by both Northern Colorado and Montana State, thanks to an 84-65 blowout victory over Eastern Washington on Thursday night. The win was the third in a row and the fourth in the last five outings for an NAU team which is still two games under .500 on the season overall.
Meanwhile, Portland State is one of several teams in the bottom half of the conference that is 2-3 after five bouts. However, two nights ago the squad snapped a 20-game road losing streak by picking up a 68-64 overtime triumph versus Sacramento State. The Vikings have now won back-to-back games for the first time since late November.
Portland State may own a 22-18 advantage in the all-time series, but in games played in Flagstaff the advantage swings to the 'Jacks who have won 11 of the 18 meetings played.
The Vikings made just one of their nine 3-point tries in the first half and finished regulation 4-of-16 out on the perimeter, but still they made it to overtime against Sacramento State and used the opportunity to capture a four- point road win. Tim Douglas was the high man with 13 points, while Kyle Richardson delivered career-highs of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Gary Winston pitched in with 12 points and six of the unit's 14 assists.
On a team that is scoring 73.0 ppg, Douglas leads the way with his 15.1 ppg, but his accuracy from the floor is now down to only 38.7 percent. Douglas is also first on the squad with 54 assists and 17 steals, not to mention coming down with 3.3 rpg as well. DaShaun Wiggins, primarily a backup who is playing less than 23 minutes per contest, is now second in scoring with 12.8 ppg, but the team is still without Aaron Moore (11.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) who has been dealing with disciplinary issues.
Averaging almost six 3-pointers per game, the Lumberjacks are getting the majority of that production from two sources in Upshur and Aaseem Dixon, who have combined to make 70 of the unit's 95 triples through 16 games. Thanks to his efforts out on the perimeter, Upshur is first on the team in scoring with 14.8 ppg, while Dixon checks in with 13.4 ppg. In between the two is Jacobsen with his 13.8 ppg, having shot the ball almost as well from the field (.588) as he has at the free-throw line (.630).
Granted, the Lumberjacks scored 84 points two nights ago, but it was the defense that put them in a position for a lopsided victory as they limited Eastern Washington to just 30.4 percent shooting from the field, including 4- of-23 (.174) behind the 3-point line. Quinton Upshur scored a game-high 26 points, Ako Kaluna and Aaseem Dixon pitched in with 15 apiece, and Max Jacobsen tallied 10 points for the hosts.
The Lumberjacks are getting on track at just the right time, and as long as Portland State continues to struggle on the road then this is a game that should fall in favor of the hosts.
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