POCATELLO — For one quarter, the Idaho State Bengals looked like worldbeaters against Northern Arizona on Saturday, shutting down the Lumberjacks, hitting 3-pointers, and looking like they might run NAU out of Reed Gym.
But ISU’s inexperience started to show, and the Bengals’ 14-point lead was completely wiped out as Northern Arizona went on a 21-0 run over the first and second quarters in an eventual 70-59 win for the Lumberjacks.
“It’s not the greatest feeling,” ISU guard Callie Bourne said about being in the middle of the run. “We have to come together as a team and get stops on defense, then that will transition to offense. ... We’re just slipping up on a few plays here and there.”
The loss gave ISU (6-8, 2-3 Big Sky Conference) its first losing streak in Big Sky play in over a year. The Bengals didn’t lose two straight in the Big Sky in the 2018-19 season.
“We’re going to be up and down,” ISU head coach Seton Sobolewski said. “We’re starting two freshmen and two sophomores, and we’re really inexperienced. ... That’s the boat we’re in. I think when you have so many young people out there, you’re going to be up and down a little bit, you’re going to be inconsistent.”
After losing at Southern Utah on Thursday, the Bengals came out fired up and in control against Northern Arizona (6-8, 3-2 Big Sky).
Dora Goles hit a 3-pointer and a midrange jumper on consecutive possessions, and Montana Oltrogge followed with a 3 to push ISU’s lead into double digits for the first time at 16-5 with 4 minutes, 13 seconds left in the opening quarter.
After the teams traded buckets, Oltrogge’s second 3 made it 21-7 with 2:52 left in the quarter. At that point, Idaho State had made 8 of 12 shots, while NAU was 2 of 11.
But that was the high-water mark for ISU. Northern Arizona scored the last six points of the first quarter to cut the lead to 21-13 going to the second.
A layup by Khiarica Rasheed, who scored 25 points for NAU on 10-of-14 shooting, got the Lumberjacks to within one, 21-20, with 8:05 left in the second.
Desperately needing to stop the bleeding on the next possession, Idaho State instead threw the ball right to NAU’s Jacey Bailey.
Tomekia Whitman hacked Bailey to prevent a fast-break layup, but her two free throws gave NAU the lead.
The Lumberjacks’ advantage grew to 28-21 before Whitman finally stopped the run with a pull-up jumper with 4:37 left in the quarter.
Altogether, Idaho State missed 13 consecutive field goals during the run, failing to score for 8:15.
“We don’t have any anchors right now, in terms of people on the floor,” Sobolewski said. “Without having a couple of older (players) to help out, to keep us steady, you’re going to be inconsistent, even with having talented people.”
Streak snapped, Idaho State responded with a 10-2 run of its own to give the Bengals a 31-30 lead at halftime.
The teams traded shorter runs early in the third quarter, with first Idaho State, then Northern Arizona, going up by four.
ISU’s starting center Ellie Smith picked up her fourth foul 25 seconds into the second half. She ended up playing 10:30, forcing Sobolewski to turn to Delaney Moore and Irene Vicente for big minutes off the bench.
Rasheed took advantage in the post, scoring 21 of her 25 points in the second half.
“(Rasheed) could catch down there, she could make solid moves and finish,” Sobolewski said. “She’s good. She’s very deceiving. She’s only 5-foot-11 as a post player, but she’s very athletic, and she even hit a 3. ... She did a nice job. We took away a lot on the perimeter by switching some screens, but they found her in the post and she went to work.”
A layup by Whitman brought things back even at 38-38 with 5:02 left in the third quarter, but NAU responded with a 5-0 spurt and this time, ISU didn’t have a response.
The Bengals closed to 47-45 with a Bourne step-back on their first possession of the fourth quarter, but Northern Arizona responded with a 9-0 run to essentially put the game away, and never led by fewer than six points down the stretch.
Bourne led ISU with 16 points, her highest-scoring performance since Dec. 16 against Cal Baptist.
“I was trying to be a bit more aggressive today, just because we did lose before (to Southern Utah),” Bourne said. “I wanted to win, I was hungry. I didn’t want to lose again ... so I tried to be a bit more aggressive and want it more.”
Diaba Konate added 14 points and Goles had 11.
Bailey supported Rasheed with 13 points for Northern Arizona.
Aside from being the second-straight loss, it was also the second-straight game with a blown lead for Idaho State, which led by 12 points midway through the fourth quarter against Southern Utah.
“Good teams figure out ways to win in close games, they figure how to win on the road,” Sobolewski said. “To be in these two games is good from that standpoint, but obviously, other than that, it sucks. You want to win those games.”
After shooting 50% from the field in the first quarter against NAU, ISU finished at 35.6%. The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, shot 33.3% in the first quarter but finished the game at 49%.
Idaho State forced more turnovers, 16 to 13, but lost the rebounding battle 33-31.
And for the 12th time in 14 games this season, the Bengals shot fewer free throws than their opponents, with 19 to NAU’s 20.
Idaho State plays Weber State in Ogden, Utah, on Thursday.
NORTHERN ARIZONA 70, IDAHO STATE 59
NAU 13 17 17 23 — 70
ISU 21 10 12 16 — 59
NAU — Rasheed 25, Radford 9, Malvar 6, Bailey 13, Orndoff 4, Schenck 7, Carroll 1, Gary 5.
ISU — Whitman 8, Goles 11, Bourne 16, Konate 14, Moore 2, Oltrogge 8.