February 20, 2013

Osborne's career night not enough in loss to UND

By ZACH BOND
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – Northern Colorado found itself up two with just 20 seconds remaining Wednesday night but was done in by a North Dakota 3-pointer with just eight seconds left to drop a Big Sky game at home 64-62 to UND.

The three, off the hands of Aaron Anderson, was made all the more bitter for the Bears considering it was the first 3-pointer UND had hit in the second half.

North Dakota was 0-for-8 from beyond the arc after halftime prior to the late shot.

The Bears had a chance to answer the three, but Tate Unruh turned it over with four seconds left. Still, North Dakota made just one out of two free throws following the turnover and the Bears had the ball with 1.8 seconds remaining.

Unruh took the ball out from under his own basketball and launched a perfect pass to Derrick Barden the length of the court. The ball was tipped from Barden's hand and into the waiting hands of Tim Huskisson, who had a good look at a reverse layup under the hoop but missed it at the buzzer.

"We focus on three things day-in and day-out in practice," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "It's on the board before we go out for a game and it's who we are. We want to defend. We want to rebound. We want to take care of the basketball, and I preach that if they do that, they're going to win games. Tonight, we did.

 "I don't want to over-analyze this because other than making shots, which is something we do – if we shoot the ball half as well as we've done in the last three games, we win by double figures. It's hard because I'm proud of the way our team competed defensively and rebounding and taking care of the ball, we just didn't make some shots. Now, we obviously didn't do some things that we could've done offensively, but we'll learn from it and we'll get better."

Coming into the game, the Bears, riding a three-game winning streak, were just one game away from North Dakota, who sat in a tie for third in the conference. The loss dropped the Bears to 7-10 in Big Sky play and 9-16 overall. Northern Colorado now sits in eighth in the conference, but just a half game away from a tie for fifth.

The Bears held the lead for much of the second half, taking the upper hand behind a 6-0 run to start the last 20 minutes. Eventually, on the strength of a 16-2 run to start the half, the Bears held their largest lead of the night at 44-33 with 13:11 left in the game.

That run was keyed by the combination of Barden (Detroit, Mich.) and Connor Osborne (Littleton, Colo.), who scored 10 of the Bears' first 12 points of the second half.

Osborne led the way for Northern Colorado, enjoying a career night by tying his career high with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Almost half of his 19 points came on the free throw line, where he set a new career high in both free throws made and attempted by finishing the game 7-of-12 from the charity stripe. The redshirt junior also snagged six rebounds on the night and tied a career high by blocking three shots.

"Connor and Derrick did their job – Connor Osborne's best game as a Bear," Hill said. "Derrick did his deal – 14 (points) and 11 (rebounds). You get 33 (points) and 17 (rebounds) from your bigs, it's pretty good. Somebody's got to step up on the perimeter and we couldn't do that tonight. It's basketball and you have to put the ball through the hole and we couldn't do that tonight."

"If that Connor Osborne shows up, this team will be fine. To have somebody else besides Derrick chasing rebounds and finishing plays and getting to the free throw line 12 times, that helps us out. He saved us tonight. Without Connor, this game wouldn't have been close. His extra efforts saved us and kept us within striking distance and almost got us a win."

Barden also had a strong game on the inside, scoring 14 points and notching a double-double with 11 rebounds. It was his second-consecutive double-double. He finished the night with 3-of-10 shooting, but he made all eight of his free throw attempts. He's found his stroke at the line, making 24-of-26 (92 percent) from the stripe over his last five games.

Northern Colorado played well from the inside, but unfortunately struggled from behind the arc, going 0-of-14 from three-point land. The Bears' 0-for from outside brought an end to a 191-game streak of at least one Northern Colorado three. The last time the Bears didn't hit a shot from outside came in a Dec. 28 game against Weber State in 2006.

The Bears finished the game with 37.5 percent shooting from the field and shot 64.5 percent from the free-throw line.

The defense kept the team in the game despite struggling from the field. The Bears held North Dakota to 40 percent shooting from the field and just 30 percent from behind the arc. The second half was especially strong for the Northern Colorado defense, as it held UND to 32 percent shooting from the field and just 11 percent from long range.

North Dakota was led by Anderson, a junior, who led all scorers with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He got to the free throw line seven times and made all seven of those attempts. He scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half.

Northern Colorado now has a reprieve from the grind of conference play, as the Bears travel to UC Davis to participate in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters. The Bears will take on the Aggies at 2:35 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, Feb. 23.