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Paul Danzer On College Hoops: Rasheed, Radford contributing for Lumberjacks

COURTESY PHOTO: NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY - Khiarica Rasheed, a junior forward from Grant High, has been a key player for Northern Arizona.Khiarica Rasheed and Nina Radford have done plenty of heavy lifting this season for the Northern Arizona women's basketball team.

But the friends and former Grant High standouts left Viking Pavilion on Saturday afternoon frustrated they didn't put on a better show for the friends and family on hand to watch their game against Portland State.

The Vikings won 66-54, quieting a NAU squad that had won five in a row and averages 74 points per game. The result improved PSU to 12-8, 6-4 in Big Sky play. Northern Arizona fell to 8-9, 5-3.

Rasheed, a 5-11 junior forward, did her part for the Lumberjacks with 18 points and 12 rebounds. She is averaging just under 20 points per game in conference play, which leads the Big Sky.

Rasheed said she is playing more aggressively in her third college season.

"I'm just being aggressive in transition, aggressive on (defense) and at the offensive end," Rasheed said.

Northern Arizona third-year coach Loree Payne calls Rasheed a dynamic player.

"Offensively, she's a stud as a post player. We just need to get her the ball and figure out how to get her continually involved in our offense," Payne said. "She's expanded her game, and it's exciting to see."

Rasheed has worked to become a more complete offensive player and said her improved perimeter game is one reason she's scoring so consistently.

"We could've done better today, but when we're working together it's really good," Rasheed said. "It helps all around when I score and rebound and am just being aggressive all the time."

Aggressiveness is a big reason Radford has made a successful transition to NAU. The 6-foot forward/guard played about 10 minutes per game as a freshman at UC Santa Barbara, then sat out last season after transferring to Northern Arizona and reconnecting with Rasheed.

"It's been a really great experience reuniting after high school. I've always enjoyed playing with Ki. I think we work really well together," Radford said.

Rasheed echoed that sentiment.

"It's a blessing to be able to play with your best friend," Rasheed said. "I think we bring out stuff in each other that no one else can. We make each other competitive."

Always competitive, Radford is a more confident player than she was at Grant, when she and Rasheed were all-Portland Interscholastic League selections multiple times and as seniors in 2017 led the Generals to the Class 6A semifinals.

"In high school, I was hesitant to be a little selfish for the ball," Radford said. "I think for our team to be successful I kind of need to do that, because when I have the ball in my hands I create for others as well as score."

Radford was limited to seven minutes in the first half against PSU because of foul trouble, and her exit was part of the reason the Vikings ended the half on a 31-10 run that changed the game after the Lumberjacks led 13-2.

Radford had five points at halftime and finished with seven points, half her scoring average.

"Sometimes foul trouble can get you out of your flow a little bit. I think I let it get the best of me today," Radford said. "I have to do better."

Payne sees plenty of better days ahead for Radford, who will have two more college seasons after this one.

"She fits perfectly. We're an offensive-minded system. We like people that can score, and obviously she can put the ball in the hole," Payne said. "She's come in as a transfer and been one of our best players. We're super excited to have her for three years as a Lumberjack."

COURTESY PHOTO: NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY - Transfer Nina Radford, from Grant High, has given the Lumberjacks of NAU a lift this season.The game at Portland State also was a homecoming for NAU point guard Caitlin Malvar, a West Linn High grad in her second season with the Lumberjacks after starting her college career playing for Payne at Puget Sound.

A 5-9 redshirt junior point guard, Malvar is thankful she was able to follow Payne to NAU to fulfill her goal of playing NCAA Division-I basketball.

She is averaging 6.4 points and 5.1 assists. Malvar took only one shot, didn't score and had four assists at Portland State.

"When we're good, we look really good, and when we're off, it looks pretty off," Malvar said of the Lumberjacks. "We just need to bounce back and play good basketball. In the Big Sky, anybody can beat anybody, so we have to show up to play every single game."

Including Medford native Lauren Orndoff, four of the Lumberjacks starters are Oregonians. And Peyton Carroll, a 6-2 senior from Damascus and Clackamas High in her third season, scored five points off the bench at Portland State.

Payne was frustrated with her club's performance against PSU.

"This group has so much talent, and we have so much potential to do well," Payne said. "We did not put out the effort or the performance that we're capable of. I think it's sometimes tough going back and playing in front of your family. There's just a little bit more pressure."

• Saturday was a big bounce-back result for Portland State, which had lost at home Thursday to Sacramento State.

The Vikings did it with production up and down their lineup — after falling behind 13-2.

Seven of the nine players who played against NAU scored at least six points. Freshmen Belle Frazier (12 points), Syd Shultz (10 points, seven rebounds) and Cassidy Gardner (two timely 3-point baskets) each came up big.

Viks coach Lynn Kennedy was especially pleased with the way his team — playing its fourth game in eight days — responded to the early deficit. He said fatigue was a factor in the loss to Sacramento State, so it was good to see players battle back from Saturday's slow start.

Senior post Jordan Stotler was limited to eight minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, but still blocked three shots before halftime and finished with five, including an emphatic one late in the game to help preserve a comfortable lead.

"When she plays defense like she can, she's so fun to watch," Kennedy said. "When she's tired or not active or half a second late, then it becomes foul trouble."

At 6-4 in conference, the Vikings are third in the Big Sky standings behind Montana State and Idaho. They play at Montana on Thursday, then have eight days between games before playing at home Feb. 8 against Southern Utah and Feb. 10 against Northern Colorado.

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