Men's basketball downs Wyoming for first time since 1937
GREELEY -- Northern Colorado held Wyoming without a field goal for more than eight minutes Tuesday night in building a big lead and then held on for a 67-53 victory at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion -- its first win against the Cowboys in more than 73 years.
Senior Devon Beitzel scored seven of his game-high 20 points for the Bears (2-0) in a crucial final stretch that helped Northern Colorado build back its advantage after Wyoming (1-1) had shaved what was once a 27-point Bears lead down to eight midway through the second half.
Senior Chris Kaba backed his running mate with 15 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore Elliott Lloyd chipped in 11 points and a career-high seven boards for the Bears, who picked up their first win against Wyoming since Jan. 8, 1937.
The win was Northern Colorado's first against the Cowboys in Greeley since Jan. 10, 1936.
"This was a big win," said Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill, who became just the second coach in school history to win his first two games as head coach (George Sage, 1963-64).
"I'm really, really proud of the guys in that locker room. We came into today after two of the best practices we've had since the season started, and we came out focused and with energy from the tip. Wyoming is long and athletic, a little bit different than Tabor College, but we didn't back down one bit, and I'm really proud of that. We need to work on finishing a little bit better, but you can't ask for a much better start than that."
Wyoming's first field goal didn't come until the 11:58 mark in the first half, on a tip-in from Djibril Thiam, but by that point the Bears had already scored 20. Freshman Paul Garnica later got a steal and a lay-up in transition to put Northern Colorado ahead 31-4 with nearly nine minutes left in the first half.
The Bears rushed and harrassed Wyoming into 13 turnovers before halftime.
"Scoring isn't really going to be a problem for us this year," Hill said. "We know, though, that defense is going to be what carries us this season. That start was great on the offensive end, but I think our defense and energy really put (Wyoming) back on their heels a little bit."
The Cowboys finished the first half on a 19-10 run and then scored the first five points of the second half to pull within 16 at 41-25. Later, a pair of free throws from Adam Waddell closed that gap to 52-44 with 8:19 left.
Lloyd hit a pair of 3-pointers over the next few minutes for the Bears, though, and then Beitzel splashed home a pair of free throws, a 3-pointer, and two more free throws on Northern Colorado's next three possessions to ice the game.
"It was good to see us show some maturity there at the end," Beitzel said. "I know I, and Coach Hill and the rest of the coaches, were a little worried about what we would look like this year in key moments, because we do have some young guys in important roles. But we were strong down the stretch and made plays when we needed to."