A 14-2 second half run sparked a 20-point come-from-behind overtime victory Thursday night at Reed Gym in a game that required an Ethan Telfair three ball to send the game to an extra frame where ISU would gain its first lead of the night.
Northern Arizona’s (6-17, 3-7 BSC) Mike Green banked in a 40-footer from the ten-foot line of the volleyball court as the shot clock was winding down to give NAU a three-point lead with under ten seconds to go.
Telfair countered Green’s shot with a 30-foot three ball on the other end and Green nearly ended the game in regulation with a near-miracle half-court shot, as the ball hit the backboard and rimmed out as time expired, nearly sending NAU back to Flagstaff with its third consecutive victory.
“I got to go get one,” Telfair said on his shot. “I knew we needed a three.”
In the extra frame, Geno Luzcando gave Idaho State (5-17, 2-7 BSC) its first lead of the night, 88-87, at the foul line with 3:33 left in overtime. Despite going one-of-four from the line in the final seconds, ISU got to the foul line ten times in overtime and the five made free throws was enough to preserve the one-point victory.
“I really love these guys but they don’t play hard all the time,” said head coach Bill Evans. “For 12 minutes they would have beat almost anybody. The problem is the game of basketball is a 40-minute affair, not a 12-minute affair.”
NAU lead 66-46 with 11:58 to play after a wide open JoJo Anderson three ball put the Lumberjacks up 20, forcing an ISU timeout.
Following the timeout, a Novak Topalovic and-one sparked an ISU 14-2 run over the next 3:52 and with the assistance of four Lumberjack turnovers during that same time frame, the Bengals cut the lead to six at the final media timeout.
“This game is so mental,” Evans said. “When they cut it to 12, they thought they could win. Made a couple of plays and cut it to eight. Then six.”
The Bengals turned the ball over 11 times in the first half but gave away the rock one other time in the final 25 minutes. NAU turned the ball over 19 times on the night, 12 of which came in the second half.
“We realized that we need to take care of the ball,” Topalovic said. “One of the points of emphasis at halftime was to take care of the ball.”
In a game between the two lowest-scoring offenses in the Big Sky, eight players found themselves in double digits while both teams shot over 45 percent from the field in a game that had 181 combined points.
Telfair lead the way for ISU with 21, Luzcando, who fouled out in overtime, had 20, Topalovic handled 16 and Stephen Lennox chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Despite scoring 90-plus points, ISU was out-rebounded 40-23 but got the ones that mattered.
“We struggled in rebounding,” Topalovic said. “But we got the one we needed.”
The Lumberjacks dominated the first 48 minutes of the game. NAU, shooting 38 percent on the year going into last night’s game, opened the night 7-of-10 from the field and shot 53 percent from the field in the first half.
“Things looked pretty dismal,” Evans said. “I’ve done it before but at halftime I said, ‘your either are or you aren’t. Where are you?’”
NAU’s leading scorer coming into the night was Green who averaged 12.4 per contest.
Green finished the night with 16 points and was 4-of-11 from downtown. Anderson finished with 10 while Jordyn Martin tallied 21 and Marcus DeBerry added 16.
“Toughness,” Telfair said. “We know we were down 20 and when you’re down 20 you feel like you ain’t got nothing to lose so you might as well leave it all out there. We need to play the first half like that.”
The ISU win snaps a three-game skid as the Bengals will host Southern Utah Saturday night in Reed Gym.
“We needed this,” Topalovic said. “A lot of positive energy and everybody congratulating each other.”