Undisciplined first half too much for NAU women to overcome as they drop to 1-3 after a 72-62 loss at UTEP
Three road games in four to start the season is tough for any team, but the NAU women's basketball team will get a much-needed break after dropping to 1-3 following a 72-62 loss to UTEP Sat. evening.
“We have to continue to figure out how to put together a whole game because I don’t think we’ve done that yet,” NAU women’s basketball head coach Loree Payne said.
After just one game inside Rolle Activity Center, the NAU women’s basketball team took another road trip.
This time, they headed east for a late-evening game against UTEP. Unfortunately, for the Lumberjacks, a homestand in Flagstaff can’t come soon enough as NAU suffered an ugly 72-62 defeat at the hands of a highly-skilled Miners team.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Payne said. “I feel like we played right into their hands during the first half. We took a lot of contested shots that we settled for.”
NAU started a back-and-forth exchange with UTEP as redshirt junior Nina Radford scored five of the Lumberjacks’ first seven points. However, it appeared as though the Lumberjacks were suffocated by the Miners’ defense as the team brought on the full-court press and were aggressive in jumping passes.
By halftime, the Lumberjacks committed 10 turnovers and sophomore Avery Crouse collected two steals for UTEP.
NAU’s defense couldn’t hold up against the speedy UTEP squad as sophomore Katia Gallegos dominated in the first 20 minutes with 15 points on 6/7 shooting. She also hit her first three 3-point shot attempts.
“We are a transition team,” Payne said. “For us to be able to transition, we have to get stops and we weren’t as tough as we had been defensively.”
Last season, Gallegos was named to the All-Conference USA first team and earned preseason honors as well on the C-USA first team entering the year.
The Lumberjacks’ offensive success was few and far between as they shot 37% in the first half and hit just two of their 10 3-point attempts. On the other side of the court, UTEP shot 47.5% and had 13 more field-goal attempts than NAU due to the turnovers and eight offensive rebounds.
Right out of the locker room for the second half, NAU looked much better and played assertively to cut into UTEP’s lead, but couldn’t hold the momentum long enough to mount a true comeback.
UTEP’s lead was cut to as low as nine, but missed shots and the Miners dominating on the boards sealed the Lumberjacks’ fate as the team suffered their first double-digit defeat.
Gallegos played 36 minutes and tallied a game-high 19 points on 8/10 shooting for UTEP. Three more players joined her with double-digit points as Crouse added 13, junior Destiny Thurman had 12 and graduate student Teal Battle finished with 10 points in the win.
Only two Lumberjacks were in double digits as sophomore Emily Rodabaugh led the team with 15 points. All of her made shots came from beyond the arc as she hit 4/6. Senior Miki’ala Maio added 11 points in the losing effort as she nailed a 3-pointer at the end of the game to reach the total.
NAU committed 19 turnovers, but the biggest defeat was in the rebounding battle as the Lumberjacks were out-rebounded 43-30. UTEP also doubled NAU in the offensive rebound game 16-8, which led to 11 more shot attempts than the Lumberjacks.
“We were outsized and outmatched,” Payne said. “We got outworked and we just need to be tougher.”
Following a breakout season, junior Regan Schenck has struggled out of the gate. She’s only scored 12 points in four games and has committed 13 turnovers. Schenck scored no points Saturday evening against UTEP.
“We just need to get her settled in,” Payne said. “Offensively, we can’t take her out of her game. We’re continuing to encourage her to be aggressive. She can score and we need her to look to score more and not just be a facilitator.”
The Lumberjacks tested themselves to start the season.
They’ve played three road games against some quality non-conference opponents in Washington, Washington State and now, UTEP.
“It is tough,” Payne said. “UTEP’s 4-0 now, UW just played Louisville and lost by only nine points and Washington State was a tournament team last year. We knew what we were going to start with and I’m proud of the team for competing with these top-caliber teams because it will have us ready for Big Sky play.”
NAU falls to 1-3 on the season and 0-3 on the road, but will have a 12-day break before opening a six-game homestand that will begin with Big Sky Conference play as the team will host Weber State Dec. 2.