Osborne's 14, Proctor's 13 lead Bears on New Year's Eve
The Associated Press contributed to this story
GREELEY -- Connor Osborne had 14 points Saturday night at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion, and Northern Colorado dominated inside to beat Northern Arizona 80-64 and snap a three-game losing streak.
Tevin Svihovec and Paul Garnica scored 11 apiece for the Bears, the defending Big Sky regular-season and postseason champions who improved to 4-2 in Big Sky openers and 8-7 all-time against NAU (5-9, 1-1).
Northern Colorado used a decided height advantage to outscore the Lumberjacks 36-14 in the paint, and it finished shooting 58.7 percent for the game -- it's highest single-game shooting effort since a 61.1 percent game against Bethune-Cookman in November 2010.
"If you look at the numbers, I couldn't draw it up much better, in terms of numbers," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "When you shoot that percentage, it tells me that our motion was really good, and our kids followed the game plan."
Gabe Rogers led Northern Arizona with 18 points, while James Douglas added 16 for the Lumberjacks, who are 3-2 under interim coach Dave Brown.
Northern Arizona has lost its last seven trips to Greeley and is 1-6 on the road this year.
The teams split their meetings in the regular season a year ago before the Bears eliminated Northern Arizona in an exciting semifinal win in the 2011 Big Sky Conference Championship.
Rogers sank a 3-pointer to start the second half, to pull the 'Jacks within 43-39, but Proctor, who scored just five points in the first half, scored the game's next six points as part of an 11-2 run that gave Northern Colorado a 54-41 lead.
Rogers made his second 3-pointer of the half to get the game to 54-44, but Unruh quickly matched it with one of his own--he was 3-for-4 for the game from beyond the arc--and the Bears were on their way.
Northern Arizona pulled within 65-54 after a 3-pointer by Michael Dunn but the Bears held NAU scoreless on its next five possessions and went ahead 69-54 with 7:13 to go.
The Lumberjacks were never closer than 11 the rest of the way, as Northern Colorado played like a team tested and sharp from a nonconference schedule that included national heavyweights Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Marquette and surprising teams Wyoming and Denver.
Depending on the source, the Bears' strength of schedule entering the week was either 10th (RealTimeRPI.com) or 25th (KenPom.com). Both of those marks were the highest of any of the Big Sky's nine programs.
"I started to see it click for a lot of guys over the [Christmas] break," Hill said. "The talent hasn't been a question--it's never been a question--it's more of a maturity level, mentally, and understanding, yes, we're talented, but a lot of times in the nonconference we stopped ourselves before anybody else stopped us.
"Tonight I saw us take advantage of what we can do well and execute it for close to 40 minutes."
Northern Colorado overcame poor free-throw shooting in the first half (11-for-20) to lead 43-36 at the break, but it dodged a bullet when Aaron Hawk-Harris fouled Rogers on a three-point attempt at the halftime buzzer.
Rogers made just one of his three freebies, and the Bears led 43-36.
Unruh, who scored in double figures for the sixth straight game, made two treys early on to help the Bears jump out to a quick 20-9 advantage.