December 16, 2008

Kingman Smokes The Nets in Bears' Nonconference Victory

BOX SCORE: vs. Portland

GREELEY, Colo. -- Northern Colorado's men's basketball team is about to embark on a six-day trip to California and Nevada -- much warmer locales than northern Colorado these days.

But on Tuesday night inside cozy Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion, sophomore Neal Kingman provided all the heat the Bears would need to get a 76-73 victory against Portland.

Kingman, a Greeley West product, hit a career-high five three-pointers on six attempts and six of nine shots from the field to pace Northern Colorado to its third win this season (3-5).

Not even a boogered-up chin, which he suffered in the first half against the Pilots (5-4), could stop Kingman on this night. He finished with 18 points -- also a career high -- all off the bench.

"It was just one of those days," Kingman said afterward, in between sips of Gatorade. "My stroke felt real nice, and my teammates were doing a great job of screening, getting me the ball when I was open. It all just came together.

As a team, Northern Colorado hit an even 50 percent from the field in this one and about 63 percent (62.5) from three-point land. That's the Bears' best offensive showing this season since dropping 105 points on Texas State in late November.

Besides Kingman, three other Bears scored in double figures in the game. Senior Jabril Banks notched 12, sophomore Taylor Montgomery added 10 and sophomore Devon Beitzel scored in double-figures (14) for the first time this season as a starter.

Beitzel has played in all eight Northern Colorado games this season, but in his two previous starts he was held to single digits. He was held scorless in the first half against the Pilots on Tuesday night, but he erupted in the second half, hitting three of four three-pointers and five of six field goals.

Beitzel's final three, with four minutes, 17 seconds left in the game, dropped in after he was fouled, which he calmly cashed in for a four-point play. The Bears entered the possession tied at 65 with the Pilots, but they left with a four-point bulge.

Combined, Beitzel and Kingman finished eight of 10 from three, and 11 of 15 from the field.

"We've got shooters on this team," Beitzel said. "If it wasn't me and Neal hitting, then it would be John (Pena) or Will (Figures). Pretty much everyone on this team can shoot. It was just mine and Neal's turn tonight."

And the Bears would need every point they could get. The Pilots banked in a final, desperation three-point shot at the end of the game, but officials correctly ruled it came after the final buzzer had sounded.

"We really hit some key free throws in this one," Northern Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "Will made three out of four down the stretch -- the last one would have been nice -- but we just need a little drama I guess."

The Bears will play four games in the next six days, so players and coaches were obviously relieved afteward to head out of town with a victory -- and to get their ship righted after starting the month of December with a trio of defeats.

"It's a great win to go into this pretty intense road trip we've got coming up," Kingman said. "It feels good to go in with a win, keep the ball rolling and hopefully continue it right into Vegas."

NOTES: Sophomore Taylor Montgomery hit two three-pointers in a game for the third time in his career... The Bears once again outscored their opponents in the first half while getting outscored in the second 20 minutes... Neal Kingman's three-pointers made (five) and points scored (18) were both career highs... The Bears haven't been outrebounded in a game this season, including winning the battle of the boards against Portland Tuesday night (27-25)... Northern Colorado coach Tad Boyle evened his career record against Portland with the victory (1-1).