MOSCOW, Idaho – The 12-point second-half deficit didn’t deter Idaho on Saturday.
Playing against Cameron Shelton – that was another matter.
Shelton scored six of his 30 points in overtime to guide Northern Arizona to an 83-78 Big Sky Conference win over the Vandals at Memorial Gym.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Idaho head coach Zac Claus said of Shelton, who shot 10 of 22 from the floor, including a 3-pointer, and 9 of 11 at the free-throw line.
Shelton also scored 24 against Idaho in a 78-65 victory on Thursday.
“Cameron Shelton showed in the last two games why he’s an all-league kind of guy,” Claus said.
NAU (3-6, 2-1) built a 58-46 lead halfway through the second half after Keith Haymon’s 3-pointer.
The Vandals (0-7, 0-4) fought back, outscoring the Lumberjacks 21-6 over the next 8 minutes and taking a 67-64 lead on Gabe Quinnett’s 3-pointer with 2:02 left.
With the score tied at 67, Idaho’s Scott Blakney blocked Shelton with 46 seconds left. Ja’Vary Christmas hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 39 seconds left for a 70-67 Vandals lead.
Haymon’s 3-pointer tied the score with 26 seconds left and Damon Thacker’s 3-point attempt for the Vandals bounced off the back iron at the buzzer.
The Lumberjacks spread the floor in OT and the 6-foot-2 Shelton by turns attacked the rim or looked for ball reversals and open shooters.
With Idaho trailing 79-78, Shelton grabbed an offensive rebound, was intentionally fouled by Quinnett and hit two free throws with 6 seconds to play. NAU widened its lead on Nik Mains’ two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Thacker drew Shelton as a defensive assignment.
“He’s a good guard,” Thacker said. “It’s a challenge.
“It was nice to see we’ve still got fight in us,” he added about the Vandals’ second-half comeback. “As long as we’re not going down, we’re going up.”
“I was incredibly pleased we were able to bounce back from being down double figures with 10 minutes to play,” Claus said.
Nonetheless, the offensive contrast between the more dynamic Lumberjacks and Vandals was impossible to ignore.
“We are going to have to continue to grind it out to a degree,” Claus said.
NAU connected on 10 of 25 3-pointers while Idaho hit 8 of 21.
The Vandals also committed 15 turnovers – including 11 steals – to NAU’s 13. The rebounding was nearly even, 33-32 for the Lumberjacks.
Blakney led Idaho with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds. Blakney was deft around the hoop with hooks from both sides, but no field goal was more impressive than the one he scored with 2:52 to play and NAU leading 64-60. Blakney reached high and behind him for a pass, laid in an off-balance shot and drew a foul from Carson Towt. He hit the free throw and another 31 seconds later as Towt fouled out.
Mains backed Shelton with 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, and Haymon added 15 points.
Quinnett scored 18 points, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. Thacker added 17 points and was Idaho’s assist leader with six.
NAU is scheduled to host Idaho State Thursday and Saturday. The Vandals go on the road in search of their first win against Southern Utah on those dates.
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