Bears Smother Southern, Get Win No. 4
BOX SCORE: vs. Southern (Las Vegas Classic)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Whatever lucky charm Devon Beitzel picked up along the way on this four-game, Western road trip, the Bears must be hoping it makes its way back to Greeley and into the rest of their games this season.
The sophomore from Lafayette, Colo., scored 24 points Tuesday afternoon in the Bears' 76-68 victory against Southern inside the Orleans Arena. It was Beitzel's third 20-plus-point game on this road trip, and it helped Northern Colorado salvage the final game of its 2008 Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic run and end this five-games-in-seven-days stretch with a victory.
Beitzel set an NCAA Division I program mark in the win by connecting on his first 12 trips to the free-throw line (he finished 15 of 16 there), and he continued a personal streak in the second half by hitting a three-pointer (he's done that at least once every game this season).
He scored just eight points in the first half but erupted for 16 in the second, aided by 13 second-period free throws. As a team, Northern Colorado had 40 attempts from the line
Southern (0-12) came into the game having lost to South-Carolina Upstate 71-43 on Monday afternoon, and it appeared the Jaguars were headed toward a similar fate against the Bears.
Northern Colorado jumped out to a 10-2 lead prior to the first media timeout and held 17-point leads on three different occasions in the first and second halves. The Jaguars were able to regain some respectability, though, in the final tally by shooting lights-out down the stretch, including in the final 33 seconds, where Chris Davis scored nine of his team-high 15 points on three successive three-pointers in the final 33 seconds.
"This was one of those games where you look at the score and it's really not indicative of the game," Northern Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. "It was more than an eight-point game. I thought we were in control pretty much the whole time."
The Bears held a 39-24 halftime lead, but they were actually outscored 44-37 in the final 20 minutes. Boyle said that was a little bit his team just continuing the identity it has carved out for itself this season, but he also chalked it up a little bit to fatigue.
The Bears got a home victory against Portland last Tuesday, Dec. 16, before leaving the next day for games against Fresno State (Thursday, Dec. 18), San Jose State (Saturday, Dec. 20) and yesterday's game against Liberty.
This is the longest road trip Boyle's Bears will take this season.
"We did not play well in the second half," Boyle said. "We've got to learn how to finish halves and play better defense in the second half of ballgames.
"I thought in the first half, we executed our offense very well. The second half? Not so much. But it was a good quick turnaround for our guys. We had very little preparation time for this game in particular -- less than 24 hours."
Now the Bears, who also got double-digit efforts Monday from senior Jabril Banks (14 points, six rebounds), junior Will Figures (11 points) and sophomore Neal Kingman (12 points, six rebounds), will get almost a week off before beginning the Big Sky Conference portion of their schedule with a home game against Northern Arizona at 7:05 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29.
They'll just have to hope that Beitzel keeps up his strong play. He had never scored more than 20 points in a game in his career before this road trip, but he's now done it in three straight contests. He started with 11 points against Fresno State, before scoring 27 against San Jose State, 21 against Liberty and 24 more here against the Jaguars.
He'll also bring back to Greeley with him a selection to the 2008 Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic All-Tournament team.
NOTES: Freshman Mike Proctor didn't play against the Jaguars after suffering a lower-leg strain against Liberty on Monday... Kingman and sophomore Chris Kaba (five points) started for the first time this season... Senior Robert Palacios, out since the Texas State on Nov. 29, was in uniform for the Bears Monday, but he didn't play.