NAU basketball facing toughest week of the season

It’s gut-check time for the Lumberjacks.

The Northern Arizona men’s basketball team is staring down the part of their schedule that has them matching up with the Big Sky’s top three teams in the span of just six days.

And, frankly, it’s hard tell whether the Jacks are up to the task.

They enjoyed a seven-game winning steak from mid-November through the first week in December, but since then it’s been pretty much hit-and-miss.  They’ve won four and lost six, and haven’t been able to string together two consecutive wins during that span.

These guys are hard to figure.  In their last couple of games, they lost to Eastern Washington, 72-59, which is ranked seventh in the Big Sky… and then beat No. 4 Portland State, 71-59.

Before that, they beat Sacramento State by 12 points, lost to Weber State by one point, and beat Idaho State by two.  Up and down.  In and out.

They shot 41 percent from the field against Eastern Washington, the second-worst showing of the season for a team that was ranked 12th in the nation in field-goal percentage.

Then, two days later, they torched the nets with 59 percent shooting against Portland State.

Cameron Jones has been the steady hand on offense.  The 6’4″ senior from Calfornia, who is averaging close to 20 points a game, had game-high numbers in both games.  He hit 24 against Eastern Washington and then 25 against Portland State.

But the only other Lumberjack in double figures for either game was the sophomore guard from Texas, Gabe Rogers, who contributed 16 points to the win over Portland State.

They have some time off before hosting the Big Sky leader, Northern Colorado, on Jan. 31.  That game is on Monday of that week, and No. 3 Montana State and No. 2 Montana close out the week.

It will help that the Jacks play all three teams on their home floor, where they are 8-1 so far this season.  They lost to the Montana schools on the road, but this will be the first meeting with Northern Colorado.

The Lumberjacks (11-8, 3-4) made their last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2000, which was head coach Mike Adras’ first season at the helm.

By the time the next three games are done, the Jacks should have a pretty good idea of their chances this year to get to the big dance for the first time in a decade.

But with this team’s quirky personality, any predictions would be foolish.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)