Wildcats win ugly

It may not have been pretty, but Arizona got the job done on Saturday night, defeating NAU 53-39.

A victory against Northern Arizona does virtually nothing for Arizona's tournament chances come March. On the flip side, a loss at the hands of the Lumberjacks is something that would have haunted the Wildcats all season.

In the early going, NAU look poised to give UA a run for its money and put a big blemish on its resume, but when it was all said and done, the Wildcats were just too much for the Lumberjacks to handle as they defeated NAU 53-39.

The game started with some impressive ball movement that left Jordin Mayes open for three, but he was unable to take advantage. Northern Arizona responded with a nice play design of it own, and James Douglas was able to convert an uncontested layup to put the Lumberjacks up 2-0.

Both teams combined for five straight missed shots before Stallon Saldivar gave NAU a four-point lead with a layup. Kyle Fogg put the Wildcats on the board with a pair of free throws, and Josiah Turner gave them a 5-4 lead with a three-pointer on the assist from Brendon Lavender.

Collin Gruber responded with a three-pointer of his own as the Lumberjacks reclaimed the lead at 7-5. Nick Johnson and Turner each missed attempts from behind the arc, and after a Max Jacobsen miss for NAU, a steal from Saldivar lead to a three-pointer from Michael Dunn to make it 10-5 Northern Arizona.

Jacobsen and Ephraim Ekanem each made shots in the paint for NAU in between a layup from Turner, as the Lumberjacks pushed the lead to 14-7. Jesse Perry made it 14-8 by hitting one of two free throws, and on the next possession, Kevin Parrom got an offensive rebound off his own miss and made the score 14-10.

Saldivar pushed the lead to 16-10, but Arizona turned up the intensity on the offensive end. Nick Johnson went on a personal four-point run to make it 16-14, and an impressive effort from Solomon Hill on the offensive glass tied the game at 16-16. He duplicated that effort a few possessions later with a pair of offensive rebounds to make give UA a 18-16 lead.

Angelo Chol made his presence felt on the defensive end with a big block, and he hustled back on offense to give himself an open look and a basket to make it 20-16 in favor of Arizona. Saldivar and Hill each knocked down a three-point attempts for their team to make the score 23-19.

With time winding down, Turner found Johnson with a lob pass for an awe-inspiring alley-oop, putting the Wildcats up 25-19 at the half and capping a much needed 18-5 run to bring the first half to a close.

Hill led all Arizona scorers with seven first half points, and he also added five rebounds and an assist. For the Lumberjacks, Sadliver had seven points of his own on 2-3 shooting. The Wildcats shot 35 percent from the field, while the Lumberjacks hit 37.5 percent of their attempts.

After being held to just two points in the first half, Kyle Fogg came out firing in the first half with three consecutive three-pointers from the corner to give Arizona a 14-point lead at 35-21. Unwilling to go away, Gruber hit a pair of three corners sandwiched between a three from Johnson to make it 38-27.

On Arizona's next possession, Johnson found Hill in the paint for an easy layup to put UA up 13 at 40-27. Following another basket from Gruber, Lavender connected on a three-point attempt to push the lead to 14. Gruber responded with his 10th straight point for NAU, cutting it to a 12-point margin.

Douglas blew by the UA defense to make it a 10-point game, and Michael Dunn took advantage of a turnover from the Wildcats to make it 43-35. After a little lull in the scoring, Hill continued to be aggressive on the offensive glass and put back a missed free throw from Turner to make it a double-digit deficit once again for the Lumberjacks.

A layup from Durrell Norman cut the lead back to eight, but a layup and a free throw, and a dunk from Jesse Perry put the Wildcats back up by double figures at 50-37. The final points of the game came late from Hill, who hit a corner three to bring the score to 53-39. Arizona improves to 6-2 on the season and will next take the floor on the road in Gainesville against the Florida Gators.

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