NAZ Suns surrender late rally by Warriors, drop 6th straight
O’Bryant, Gray and Cooke record double-doubles in loss
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Johnny O’Bryant, Josh Gray and Derek Cooke Jr. each had double-doubles, Askia Booker scored 21 points in his return from injury, but Northern Arizona surrendered an 18-11 game-ending spurt by Santa Cruz in a 115-108 loss on Thursday night.
It is the sixth straight loss for the Suns, which are now 0-3 against the Warriors this season. All three Northern Arizona losses have come during the six-game funk. Santa Cruz’s average margin of victory in its three wins over Northern Arizona is 15.
Trailing 36-21 after the first quarter, Northern Arizona used a 29-14 run capped by a running Gray layup to tie it at 50-50 with 2:06 to play in the half. Gray’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Suns a 59-56 halftime lead.
But after O’Bryant hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 97-97 with 5:01 to play in the fourth quarter, Santa Cruz responded with an 18-11 run to close out the game, including three 3-pointers by Phil Pressey, who finished with 25 points.
O’Bryant, a former LSU standout, finished with 25 points on 9 of 18 shooting from the field, including a perfect 5 for 5 from the free-throw line, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Gray scored 16 points, dished 10 assists and recorded three steals, while Cooke was 5 of 6 from the field for 10 points and had 10 rebounds.
Northern Arizona (10-7) shot 47 percent from the field (42-90), including 11 3-pointers, but committed 29 fouls, which turned a 24 of 33 mark from the free-throw line for the Warriors.
For Santa Cruz (10-8), Dennis Clifford finished with 26 points on 11 of 13 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Elgin Cook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Northern Arizona wraps up a three-game road trip tonight against the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Suns lost a 142-135 double-overtime game to Los Angeles the last time these two clubs met Nov. 23. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.