January 9, 2010

Kaba ties career high as men's basketball puts away Idaho State

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GREELEY, Colo. -- Chris Kaba came off the bench Saturday night and gave Northern Colorado a much-needed boost in its 78-66 victory against Idaho State inside Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

The junior from Gary, Ind., tied his career-high with 17 points -- thanks to a perfect night from beyond the arc -- and the Bears overcame a pair of eight-point deficits in the second half to win their sixth straight game and 11th straight at home, the third longest stretch in school history.

Senior Will Figures added 16 points in the victory and Taylor Montgomery had 13 for Northern Colorado (15-3, 4-2 Big Sky), who swiped seven of their 10 steals after halftime.

Kaba's effort -- which included a banked-in three midway through the second half and a check-the-toes-are-behind-the-stripe three about a minute later that hit rim and glass before falling through the twine -- helped the Bears' bench outscore the Bengals' reserves 30-8.

Redshirt-freshman Elliott Lloyd scored all seven of his points in the second half, and junior Neal Kingman added six points, ripped down four boards and swiped a career-high two steals.

"I'm really proud of Chris Kaba," Northern Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. "He was not very good Thursday night (against Weber State), but he really responded at practice (yesterday) and at shootaround. And Neal Kingman really defended and rebounded the ball well for us, and Elliott came in and made some plays.

"I think our bench was the key tonight. Devon (Beitzel) had a subpar night a little bit, and we know what Will, and Yahosh and Taylor and Mike do, but those three came off the bench for us tonight and really gave us a lift."

Beitzel entered the game hitting nearly 61 percent from the floor in his previous five outings, but he just couldn't find his rhythm in this one, connecting on just three-of-eight attempts from the floor and scoring just eight points after reaching double figures in eight straight contests.

He left the game with 5:07 to play and the Bears up four, but Northern Colorado dug deep and made nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to send Idaho State packing.

Amorrow Morgan's 25 points led the Bengals (4-13, 1-4). Broderick Gilchrest added 15 points and Donnie Carson had 12 for ISU, which lost its third straight.

Northern Colorado maintained a slim 37-35 lead at halftime, thanks to 10-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line, but the Bears connected on five-of-11 three-point attempts in the second half, after hitting just three-of-12 in the first.

Northern Colorado held a 37-31 lead with 1:40 left in the first half, but Idaho State got a jumper at 1:13 and then put in a layup as the clock expired to pull within two heading into the halftime locker room.

"In a lot of ways, we kind of needed a game like this," Boyle said. "We haven't been in this situation a lot this year -- down in the second half -- and I think our guys really responded in the second half. I challenged our guys at halftime -- Idaho State just wanted it more than us -- and we gutted it out in the second half. We created some offense with our defense.

"We've got to learn how to win when our jump shots aren't falling, and we didn't shoot the ball like we normally have been tonight. We've been relying on Devon so much, and we've got to find some other ways to score."

Idaho State started the second half on a 12-2 run over the first 3:11 to take a 47-39 lead and later pushed that lead to 49-41 before the Bears mounted their comeback.

Kaba's banked-in three came at 10:37, to tie the game at 53-53, and the Bears never trailed again.

"We didn't play real well coming out of halftime," Boyle said. "They made a little run -- had some open threes and a couple layups -- but our guys stepped up when they had to, and that's what good teams do."

Figures led Northern Colorado with eight first-half points, and Kaba was right behind with seven. Kaba also led the Bears with five first-half rebounds.

NOTES: Bears extend home winning streak to 11 games … Northern Colorado wins sixth in a row and seventh in last eight games … The Bears won 14 games all of last season (14-18) … junior Chris Kaba ties career high with 17 points … Northern Colorado committed season-low eight turnovers … The Bears improve to 13-27 against Idaho State all-time … NC is now 8-12 against Idaho State in Greeley.