January 10, 2013

Bears' offense stumbles late in loss to 'Cats


GREELEY – The Northern Colorado men's basketball team looked like it had Montana State on the ropes late in the second half in Thursday night's contest inside Butler-Hancock, but the Bears' offense slumped in the game's waning moments in a 69-66 loss to the Bobcats.

The Bears were in control of the game as they held a 62-54 lead with just seven minutes remaining in the game. From there though, the Bobcats began a 15-4 run to close out the game.

"I thought we played a tremendous 32 minutes other than the last four minutes defensively and the last four minutes offensively," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "You can't have turnovers, you can't miss layups and you can't miss dunks in conference basketball games.

"We did a lot of really, really good things. I can't remember the last time we got eight more shots than our opponent. We shot the ball extremely well from the free throw line. We out rebounded them by seven. We had 14 assists. I don't remember the last time we had 14 assists. We did a lot of good things; we just didn't finish the game off."

With the loss, Northern Colorado dropped its fourth straight and couldn't come away with a victory in its first Big Sky home game. The loss dropped the Bears' record to 3-10 overall and 1-4 in league play.

The Bears opened up an eight point lead after a Tevin Svihovec free throw put them up 62-54. The Bobcats though, turned up their defense and forced four Northern Colorado turnovers in the final seven minutes to steal away the win from the Bears.

Northern Colorado was led by a pair of juniors in Tate Unruh (Branson, Mo.) and Derrick Barden (Detroit, Mich.). The two combined for 37 points, more than half of the Bears' total, and 12 rebounds.

It was Unruh who led both teams in the scoring department, as he finished with 23 points, just two points shy of tying his career high. More than half of his points came from the three-point line, as he finished 5-of-11 from behind the arc.

With his five threes, Unruh moved past Elliott Lloyd for fifth on the Northern Colorado Division I made 3-pointers list.

Barden was not to be outdone by Unruh's heroics from outside, though his production came almost exclusively from the paint and the free throw line.

He finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds, notching his second double-double of the season and recording his first double-digit rebound performance since a Dec. 1 game against UC Riverside.

Barden wrapped up the night with 4-of-10 shooting from the field and nailed six of his seven attempts from the charity stripe. Along with his scoring, Barden consistently terrorized the Bobcats on both the offensive and defensive glass.

Normally more of a presence on the defensive end of the court when it comes to rebounding, Barden grabbed seven offensive boards and was able to give the Bears several extra possessions.

The Bears did a good job of distributing the wealth in the game, as their 14 assists is the most they racked up in any Big Sky game this season. That passing led to plenty of open shots, but Northern Colorado was unable to knock down enough of those open looks to expand its lead. The Bears finished with 38.2 percent shooting from the floor and only made 6-of-21 three-point shots.

"I thought Tate and Derrick played extremely well," Hill said. "I thought Emmanuel Addo played very well in the first half. We just need some more guys to step up and hit some shots. We've got to have more than Tate hitting shots from the perimeter. It puts a lot of pressure on our offense when guys aren't knocking down shots."

Statistically, Northern Colorado appeared to be the hands-down winner tonight, as the Bears outrebounded the Bobcats 34-27 and made 18-of-21 shots from the free throw stripe.

The first half was about as back-and-forth as a game could get, as both teams traded leads multiple times throughout the opening 20 minutes. After getting down 24-19 with 8:16 left in the half, the Bears went on a 13-0 run keyed by seven points from Barden and Unruh to take a 32-24 lead late in the half.

The tandem of Barden and Unruh scored all but eight of the Northern Colorado 27 points in the half. Unruh poured in 11 points on three made 3-pointers, while Barden notched eight points and five rebounds.

The Bears came out of the locker room with a 32-27 lead and extended that lead to 42-33, their largest lead of the game, at the 17:36 mark of the second half. The 10-4 run to get that lead was capped off by Unruh's fourth 3-pointer.

From there, the Bears kept Montana State at bay, as they led the Bobcats by at least four points until the game's final moments.

With the win, Montana State won its third straight game and moved its conference record to 3-2 and its overall mark to 6-7.

The Bobcats were led Calen Coleman, who poured in 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 shooting from behind the three-point line. Xavier Blount chipped in with 14 points, too.

Next up for the Bears is another tough test at home, as they prepare to host Montana, the defending Big Sky champions at 4:35 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, Jan. 12. Just like tonight's contest, Saturday's game will be broadcasted on Altitude.