Purdue Fort Wayne Advances to Title Game
In the second opening round contest of the Desert Division in the inaugural Arizona Tip-Off, the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons withstood a 15-0 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks run in the second half, pulling away to a 77-67 victory Friday afternoon at Desert Diamond Arena.
Purdue Fort Wayne (4-0) used a 12-0 run late in the second half to pull away. It trailed 65-61 following the Northern Arizona (1-3) offensive outburst and ended the run with a 73-65 lead that was not relinquished.
Quinton Morton-Robertson led all scorers with 27 points on 8-11 shooting for Purdue Fort Wayne, including 5-8 from three point distance. He was joined in double-figures by Rasheed Bello (13) and Anthony Roberts (13). Roberts added 10 rebounds – including two on the offensive glass.
Purdue Fort Wayne won points off turnovers, points in the paint, and second chance points. Additionally, they forced the NAU offense into 22 turnovers, including four in the final 3:33 that secured the victory.
The Lumberjacks saw four players in double figures, led by Trenton McLaughlin and Oakland Fort’s 14 points. Jayden Jackson (11) and Rockwell Reynolds (10) followed. NAU won fast break points and bench points.
Purdue Fort Wayne jumped to an early nine point advantage at 14:44 in the first half, its largest lead in the opening stanza. With a 21-14 advantage over the Lumberjacks, NAU went on a 16-3 scoring stretch over 5:09 from 8:29-3:20, jolting to a 30-24 lead.
The Mastodons ended the half on an 11-5 scoring edge, taking a 35-33 lead into the break. Morton-Robertson led all scorers with 13 points as the only man in the double figures on 5-6 from the field, including 3-4 from three-point distance. NAU was led by Reynolds, who had eight points.
Purdue Fort Wayne came out of the halftime break aggressively, ripping off a 10-2 stretch over 3:31 from 17:36-14:05. It went from trailing 39-37 to a 10 point advantage, 49-39.
Just as one run came to its conclusion, another started. The Lumberjacks scored 15 straight points over 4:10, from 10:29-6:19 in the second half. Purdue Fort Wayne went 0-6 from the field and NAU led by five, 62-57. The Mastodons ripped off four straight points after a 1-2 effort from the charity stripe and immediate three pointer following the run.
The Mastodons closed the game on a 16-2 scoring advantage in the final 3:04 and made five of their final seven shots from the floor.
Purdue Fort Wayne faces South Dakota in the Desert Division Championship Saturday at 2:30 p.m., while NAU squares off against VMI in the Third Place Game at 12:30 p.m..