March 13, 2014

Men's Basketball pulls out 62-60 win in Big Sky Championship first round

Collin Boyles
UNCBears.com

OGDEN, Utah -- Head Coach B.J. Hill summed up Thursday's Big Sky Championship quarterfinal against Northern Arizona by comparing it to the Northern Colorado's season. The Bears (18-12) faced adversity while withstanding a 20 point comeback by the Lumberjacks (15-17) in a 62-60 win in the Dee Events Center.

The Northern Colorado win was the third of the season against Northern Arizona, the first two coming in the regular season as 15 point victories. Thursday's game in Ogden, Utah finished much closer, although the Bears were able to gain a game-high 20 point lead.

Senior Derrick Barden (Detroit, Mich.) and junior Tevin Svihovec (Kingwood, Texas) set the tone early for the Bears, getting 12 of the first 19 points in the paint while the team finished with 30 for the game. Multiple hustle points from others, including a four-point play from senior Tate Unruh (Branson, Mo.) and a offensive putback dunk from junior Tim Huskisson (Willard, Mo.), also boosted the Bears in a dominant first half.

"We started off really good, got smacked in the face with some adversity and found a way," Head Coach B.J. Hill said. "I couldn't be prouder of them. That's what this time of year is about, surviving and advancing and they found a way."

The hustle in the first minute of play by Barden showed the mindset of him and the Bears team. The senior hustled out an offensive board which then led to a 3-pointer to open the game by Svihovec. The duo would continue on to score the Bears' first 19 points, 12 of which came in the paint.

A 10 minute span in the middle of the half by UNC's defense helped the team build a 17 point lead, 37-20. Northern Arizona made just one field goal during those 10 minutes while Northern Colorado sank seven. Both teams traded scores to end the half, giving the Bears a 39-25 lead going into the break.

The first half lead that reached 17 points for the Bears was extended to 19 twice. Following the second time, NAU went on a 7-0 run thanks to a UNC missed 3-pointer and turnover over a four minute span. The 12 point differential wouldn't last long as junior forward Dominique Lee (Oakland, Calif.) scored six straight points in an 8-0 run to reach the team's first 20 point lead of the game, 56-36, with just under 10 minutes left in the game.

Bears turnovers and missed shots allowed the Lumberjacks to begin a 22-4 run until just over two minutes left in the game, bringing the lead down to its lowest point since 16:33 in the first half. Looking at a 60-58 lead, Barden ended the long run with a layup from Huskisson.

NAU was able to get to the free throw line just after Barden's score to bring the deficit back to two points. On the ensuing Bears possession, a shot was not able to fall with the shot clock winding down to give the Lumberjacks the final possession in regulation. NAU made a last-second effort to get to the rim but the ball bounced off the rim as time expired to give the Bears a first round win 62-60.

"It was a team effort in (the second half comeback) that includes their coach [Jack Murphy]," Hill said. "Our guys started looking at the scoreboard and started losing their sense of urgency. I think I contributed to that, though, playing not to lose instead of to win."

The Bears finished the game shooting 24-of-52 (46.2%) from the field compared to 22-of-52 (42.3%) by the Lumberjacks. UNC only made 4-of-12 (33.3%) from 3, but made those shots count while NAU made 7-of-17 (41.2%) from 3. While the Bears scored 30 points in the paint, the Lumberjacks were able to record 22.

Barden led the Bears in scoring with 15 points and also pulled down three rebounds. Svihovec followed with 14 points and four rebounds while Unruh scored 12. NAU's Aaseem Dixon led all scorers with 20 points while Max Jacobsen recorded 18.

The No. 6 seed Bears will now play the host and No. 1 seed Wildcats of Weber State at 7 p.m. tomorrow night.