Garnica's career night not enough for Basketball's first win
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Sophomore Paul Garnica continued his early-season surge for Northern Colorado Basketball on Sunday night in the Bears' 78-69 loss at Northern Iowa in the first round of the South Padre Island Invitational.
Garnica finished with a game-high and career-high 22 points on seven-of-15 shooting, including six of nine from beyond the three-point arc, as he nearly pushed the Bears past the Panthers in the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Sophomore Tate Unruh backed him with 12 points, but those were the only two Bears in double figures as coach B.J. Hill's program fell to 0-3 on the season.
Conversely, Northern Iowa, which defeated Kansas to advance to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in 2010, shot 51 percent from the field (24-47) and had five players finish with double-digit points, led by Johnny Moran's 17.
The Bears stayed in the game with a 13-for-20 effort from three.
"When you give that team that many extra attempts it's going to hurt you," Hill said, "but there were some bright points that we can definitely grow from.
"It was nice to see the motion team from practice show up on game night. Now, I say that, and you still had way too many turnovers (25), but our motion and our action in our halfcourt offense was really good. I'd still like to see us get it inside more, but against a very-well disciplined defensive team, I thought we did a good job taking what was there and being patient. And we hit some shots. To beat a team like this on the road you've got to hit some shots."
Garnica, after putting in 14 and 18 points, respectively, in Northern Colorado's first two games this season, was sizzling Sunday, scoring 11 points in each half, to go along with three rebounds, two steals, two assists and two free throws in the game—part of the Bears' perfect 12-for-12 effort from the line.
"When a guy drives it full speed when there's five defenders back and he pulls up without a pass with 32 (seconds) on the shot clock, you know that: one, he's a good player, and, two, he must have a lot of confidence," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson told the Des Moines Register. "Those ones are hard to defend."
Redshirt-freshman Tevin Svihovec hit a three at the 9:57 mark in the first half to put Northern Colorado ahead 22-15. The Panthers chipped away at the lead from there and led 63-54 with a little more than six minutes to go in the game.
Sophomore Emmanuel Addo responded with a three-pointer, junior Elliott Lloyd did the same on the Bears' next possession, and Addo added another deep three about a minute-and-a-half later to pull Northern Colorado within one at 64-63.
Later, with 2:02 remaining and UNI ahead 67-63, Moran picked Lloyd's pocket and slinged a pass upcourt to teammate Jake Koch, who put in a layup after drawing a foul from the Bears' Connor Osborne.
Koch put the subsequent freebie in for a 70-63 lead, and the Bears never got closer than six the rest of the way.
"I'm happy—we expect to win every time we take the floor—but I saw some growth, and I saw some definite improvement," Hill said. "I saw some guys more mentally into everything we were doing and having a sense of urgency, and that's what we need. The rest of this stuff is fixable. To see these guys compete at a program like Northern Iowa that has had the success that they've had ... to come in here and give [Northern Iowa] everything they want is pleasing for a head coach with such a young group of guys."