Big Start To 2nd Half Propels Men's Basketball Past Montana State
March 1, 2008
BOZEMAN, Mont. - The University of Northern Colorado men's basketball team could not advance to the Big Sky Tournament, but they could still play the role of spoiler, or at least affect the seeding for next week's championship and that's exactly what they did. The Bears defeated Montana State (15-14, 7-9) 91-79 to finish their season with a 13-16 overall record and 6-10 mark in Big Sky Conference action. With the loss, the Bobcats must now travel to Weber State as the six-seed. With a win, they would have been the five-seed.
Northern Colorado was led by freshman guard Devon Beitzel with 17 points, including 11 at the free throw line and a perfect 3-for-3 night from the field. Freshman forward Neal Kingman scored 16, while junior forward Jabril Banks ends his season in double figures in 11 straight games with 15 and sophomore forward Jefferson Mason chipped in 11. All 10 players who saw action in the contest scored at least two points on the evening.
Kingman led the club with five rebounds, while senior guard Terry Anderson had four assists in his final game in a Bear uniform. The Bears shot .650 from the field, the second-best shooting percentage of the season behind the season opening game against VMI (.680). They were also .500 from the three-point line (4-for-8) and hit .795 from the free throw line (39-for-55). The 39 free throws is also a season high.
"I'm really proud of our team," said Head Coach Tad Boyle. "I talked to the team before the game: `This is a game that doesn't mean a lot for the standings, but it means a lot to me, a lot to the program and a lot to you as players.' This group has a lot of life to it and they played for pride. I'd love to be going to practice on Monday, but we have to use this as a stepping stone for our program and we did that tonight."
"In the second half, we got stops. We created offense with our defense and our lead expanded. I want to use this as a learning experience. We learned if we guard and hold them to one shot and get some offense from that, we win. We executed great on the offensive end."
Montana State was led by senior guard Casey Durham with 17 points and seven assists, while Carlos Taylor scored 16 and Bobby Howard, Mecklin Davis and Branden Johnson each scored 10. Johnson also had a team-best five rebounds.
Northern Colorado out-rebounded Montana State 34-25, while NC had 23 turnovers to MSU's 14. The Bobcats shot .429 from the field and just .286 from the three-point line (8-for-28). They were also 17-for-23 (.739) from the free throw line.
The first half was a close, back-and-forth affair with the Bears taking a 39-36 lead into the locker room at halftime. The first five points of the game were all scored from the free throw line, three by Montana State and two by Northern Colorado. The Bears took their first lead at 13:23 off a jumper by freshman guard Monice Garrett. The Bobcats took the lead right back and there were six ties and four lead changes after that point until the break.
Northern Colorado came out for the second 20 minutes on fire, opening the second half on a 19-4 run for the 58-40 lead. They extended the lead to 22 points on a layup by Beitzel with 11:18 remaining and held on for the 91-79 victory.
When talking about the seniors, Boyle had this to say. "Terry, I was really proud of. He came out in the second half and really gave us a spark. Sean's had a great career. I'm proud of them, probably more for their contributions off the floor. I wish Thanasi (Panagiotakopoulos) and Kirk (Archibeque) could have been here, but they couldn't. I know we're all wishing Thanasi the best back home. I really like our senior class. Our program is on the rise. It's not where we want to be, but the arrow is pointed up."
Northern Colorado ends its season with a win for the first time since 1998-99 and the most wins since the 2001-02 squad went 14-13.