With finals and the fall semester in the rearview mirror, the Northern Arizona mens basketball team begins play in its second week under the direction of interim coach Dave Brown with its first road test at Arizona State on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:05 p.m., and the game will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona.
The Lumberjacks are coming off an 80-67 win over CSU Bakersfield last Saturday and have had a good week of practice between final exams.
We had a lot of good feelings about what we were doing, said Brown. They got a lot of basketball up and down. There was not a lot of talking. I am not changing a lot.
Brown, who took over when longtime coach Mike Adras unexpectedly resigned last week, and his players are looking forward to the two-game road trip, which starts in Tempe and continues with a game at Sam Houston State on Tuesday. The six-day trip will allow the players and coaches to adapt to the new situation.
I have always been a big believer in going on the road, Brown said after practice Wednesday. There is a certain dynamic that happens between coaches and players. It is a completely different environment. It is hostile, so you have to be together. It is not going to be without its adversities and challenges. It will be interesting to see how we all work together to handle those.
NAU will face an Arizona State team that is 4-5 after a 60-57 win over North Dakota State Saturday, one of two common opponents with the Lumberjacks (Pepperdine). ASU has not won back-to-back games this season. The Sun Devils have three players scoring in double figures, led by junior guard Trent Lockett at 14.2 points per game. Keala King (12.9 points) and Carrick Felix (12.2) are ASU's other top contributors.
Freshman point guard Jahii Carson, who was expected to play a big role in ASU's offense this year, was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA last week and will not be able to play this season.
The Sun Devils and Lumberjacks have met 136 times, and it was NAU that came out on top in the most recent meeting, winning the 2006-07 season opener in Herb Sendek's first game as ASU head coach. The Sun Devils hold a 76-60 advantage overall in the series between former Border Conference rivals.
I want them to beat ASU, Brown said of his team. I think it would do a lot for the program. There is nothing like wins. It is what it is all about. That is our goal. If we fall short, then we need to do a better job of coaching and working together.
NAU is 0-6 away from Flagstaff this season, including three true road games and three neutral contests. In those six losses NAU is averaging 57.4 points, shooting 36 percent and averaging 18.6 turnovers. On the flip side, ASU is only 2-3 on its home court, beating North Dakota State and Grand Canyon University but losing to Pepperdine, New Mexico and Nevada. Pepperdine has defeated both ASU (66-60) and NAU (49-40) this season.