Timeout gaffe gives Bears fifth straight win vs. E. Washington
GREELEY -- Tate Unruh converted two technical-foul free throws with 12 seconds remaining Saturday to help Northern Colorado slip past Eastern Washington 71-70 at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
Unruh, who finished with seven points for the Bears (6-10, 3-2 Big Sky), got a chance at the freebies after the Eagles' Colin Chiverton called a timeout that Eastern Washington didn't have.
The Eagles did get to huddle up, but it cost them a team technical, and Unruh, now 23-of-24 from the free-throw line on the season, made them pay.
The crazy play was reminiscent of Chris Webber's famed gaffe for Michigan in the 1993 NCAA Championship game between the Wolverines and the North Carolina Tar Heels, and it turned Chiverton from a hero to a goat. His jumper with 18 seconds left had given the Eagles (9-9, 3-3) a 70-69 lead and had them on the cusp of knocking off Northern Colorado in Greeley for the first time since 2007.
Instead, Unruh's free throws and freshman Tim Huskisson's win-sealing steal on the other end gave Northern Colorado a fifth straight win in the series and a 7-5 all-time mark against the Eagles since 1971.
"He's like the [second] all-time leading shooter in Missouri state high school basketball history from the free-throw line," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said of Unruh. "So if you're going to have a guy at the free-throw line in that situation that's a pretty good one to have."
Chiverton led all players with 21 points, and Cliff Ederaine and Parker Kelly scored 12 points apiece for Eastern Washington.
The Bears took just 35 shots but made 20 of them for a 57.1 percentage from the floor. They put in 47 percent of their shots in the second half (8-17) and 71 percent from beyond the three-point line (5-7) after halftime, helping them win for the first time this season when trailing at the half (1-8).
With the win and the late-game heroics from Unruh, a sophomore, and Huskisson, a freshman, Northern Colorado avoided its first three-game home losing streak in four seasons.
"I think our kids took a big step toward growing up," Hill said. "I've been complaining about their youth and their inexperience all year, and I think they took a big step in that second half today. It's always good to get a win, and it's good to get a win in front of the home crowd. It's good for these guys to see what they have to do, that they can succeed in a close game, to gain some confidence in a tight, physical conference game.
"There's still plenty left for us to improve on. It seems that with this team a different leak pops up each game, and whenever we think we've got one thing emphasized and taken care of, something else pops up, and that's just the way young teams are. That's just part of the growing up process. But these guys took a big step in the maturity toward being successful tonight."