Nik Mains scores career-high 24 points as NAU MBB routs NAIA Embry-Riddle 101-54
The NAU men's basketball team snapped a four-game losing streak as they defeated NAIA Embry-Riddle, 101-54. Nik Mains set a career-high 24 points as he hit 8 of his 10 3-point attempts.
Not much was in question heading into the NAU men’s basketball matchup against Embry-Riddle, but what the Lumberjacks did answer Wednesday evening was that they are better than bottom-of-the-barrel NAIA schools.
NAU defeated Embry-Riddle with ease, 101-54, which is just the fifth victory of the year for the Lumberjacks to bump their record to 5-9 (1-2 Big Sky Conference). Back in November, NAU routed Benedictine Mesa, which put 40% of the program’s wins coming to teams not in Division I.
“It was a great win for our morale as a team,” forward Carson Towt said.
Kicking the showcase off was forward Nik Mains as he hit his first six shots from beyond the arc.
10 minutes in and the longest-tenured player of the program was one more 3-pointer away from hitting his career high. That shot came early in the second half as Mains got to 21 points. He’d finish the game with 24 points and hit eight of his 10 3-point attempts.
“Carson Towt was finding me,” Mains said. “We had special plays made for me as well and my teammates found me in open spots.”
It was a career day for Towt as well as he became the first Lumberjack since 2013 to record a triple-double. The big finished with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. However, he was just 4/15 from the free-throw line.
Three other Lumberjacks were in double digits as guard Jalen Cone had 21 points and shot 7/12 from beyond the arc, forward Ezekiel Richards set his collegiate career-high with 16 points as he dominated the paint from the jump and forward Wynton Brown finally made a mark this season as he had 11 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
The win was also one of NAU’s best performances when it comes to taking care of the ball.
The Lumberjacks had 26 assists compared to just eight turnovers.
“You have to have swagger and have fun playing,” NAU head coach Shane Burcar said. “These guys are all in and they care for each other so Towt and Mains are right when they say this is one of the closest teams they’ve been a part of.”
While there isn’t much to learn from a D-I team playing an NAIA school in January, Wednesday did teach the Lumberjacks that they need to get better at the line as the team shot just 36% from the charity stripe, which brings their season percentage to a measly 68%.
Since the CSU Fullerton loss, NAU only has wins against Idaho State and Embry-Riddle and will now have a tough next few games in their conference as they head to Cedar City, Utah Saturday for a matchup against Southern Utah (9-5, 3-1 Big Sky). In three of the next four games for the Lumberjacks, they will take on the upper echelon of the conference as they play Northern Colorado (8-7, 3-0 Big Sky) Jan. 15 and Montana State (10-5, 2-2 Big Sky) Jan. 20 following the SUU and Sacramento State meetings.
“We got to hit them [Southern Utah] early,” Mains said. “We did that last year, but we lost by a few years. We’ll do well if we break their pace and play at our speed.”
The Southern Utah game can be streamed on ESPN+ at 7:00 p.m. MST.