Saint Mary’s Drops Heartbreaker To Northern Arizona 73-71


The Saint Mary’s Gaels fell into a classic trap game as they dropped a tough 73-71 game to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at home on Monday night. The Gaels battled back from a halftime deficit to lead by two with 18 seconds left. But the Lumberjacks finished the game on a 4-0 run highlighted by Quinton Upshur stealing an inbounds pass and putting in the go-ahead score to win the game.

The Lumberjacks entered the game at just 3-6 after pulling out a close victory over Loyola Marymount. The Gaels meanwhile were 6-2 and riding high after a big win at Creighton. Combined with a game across the country at nationally ranked Saint John’s on Friday, it’s likely the Gaels were looking ahead and didn’t bring their best effort on Monday against the Lumberjacks.

Statistically the Gaels had another strong game punctuated by big performances by their stars. Brad Waldow collected his sixth double-double in eight games with 25 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Dane Pineau continues to look like a breakout start setting a new career-high in points for the second straight game. He was one of four Gaels in double figures along with Waldow, Aaron Bright, and Kerry Carter.

Three Lumberjacks reached double figures highlighted by a game-high 26 points from Upshur. Three of the top four scorers in the game were from Northern Arizona as Kris Yanku dropped in 18 points followed by Aaseem Dixon with 17. Statistically the Lumberjacks didn’t do much else that stood out, but they played a strong enough game to be in it the whole way allowing for the heroics of Upshur to secure the win at the end.

With the loss, the Gaels drop to 6-2 and have lost two of their last three after a 5-0 start. The Lumberjacks are trending in the opposite direction as they improve to 4-6 having won two in a row against WCC teams after beating Loyola Marymount and now Saint Mary’s.



Northern Arizona – 73

Saint Mary’s – 71

The Gaels really didn’t do a ton bad in this game. They got huge performances from all their key players. They won every key statistical category including rebounds and assists. Northern Arizona only won the turnover battle by one, although it was a key one as the late steal by Upshur won the game for them. Both teams had near identical shooting nights from all areas of the floor.

So at the end of the day, the score was the deciding factor. The Gaels were their usual selves offensively as 71 points falls right in line with their normal numbers. In fact they have ranged between 71 and 83 points in every single one of their games so far. The defense was a slightly different story. They have had strong defense so far this season as 73 points was their second highest total allowed all year. They have held their opponent under 70 points in five of their eight games. But their two losses have now come when they have given up their high point totals. Their highest points allowed was 82 in their previous loss to Boise State.

This can be tracked back to their offense. Even in the losses, they are not giving up a ton of points. But they are often not scoring enough to put away games, and that was the problem against Northern Arizona. If they’re going to put average point totals, they need strong defense to back it up. They didn’t let the Lumberjacks go crazy, but they let them do enough to hang around and it burned the Gaels in the end. There’s not a ton more offense to be found when guys like Carter, Bright, and Waldow are consistently producing, so the defense needs to stay strong to win games.

The Creighton win was a good example. The Gaels put up just 71 points in an overtime game which isn’t very good, but they did their job on defense. The Bluejays got only 67 points in the game including going just 2-7 in the overtime period. And the Gaels also forced 9 steals. When the defense is strong, the Gaels have just enough offense to win. When they don’t, bad teams can hang with them which allows them to fall on late plays like the one they suffered on Monday.


Nov 15, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Northern Arizona Lumberjacks guard Quinton Upshur (2) drives to the basket past USC Trojans guard Byron Wesley (22) in the first half of the game at the Galen Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

QUINTON UPSHUR, NORTHERN ARIZONA: This is a pretty easy call. Upshur was a one-man wrecking crew as he willed the Lumberjacks to victory. He continues to be a key cog as the leader scorer for Northern Arizona, and his game-high 26 points kept the Lumberjacks in the game. And of course not enough can be said about his big steal at the end, especially considering they got just four steals all night in a game where both teams allowed fewer than 10 turnovers each. It was a veteran play from the senior, and he is to the Lumberjacks what guys Evan Payne of Loyola Marymount and T.J. Wallace of Pacific are to their teams in terms of being that singular guy who can carry his team through a game to victory.


The Gaels must quickly regroup as they get their toughest test of their non-conference schedule on Friday with a trip across the country to face #20/23 Saint John’s in New York. They have the talent to win, but their mental status and fatigue may be too much to handle right now. Between the high of upsetting Creighton followed by the low of losing to Northern Arizona plus all the travel involved with visiting Creighton, returning home, and then heading to New York, it’s hard to believe the Gaels will be at their absolute best on Friday. They may be struggling when they return home for their final non-conference game against Northeastern next Monday.