January 15, 2010

Bears leave Portland still looking for first win vs. Vikings

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Northern Colorado men’s basketball had four players score in double figures Friday night against Portland State, but none of the Bears were truly ever able to get in a groove in a frustrating 85-69 loss inside the Vikings’ Peter W. Stott Center.

Senior Will Figures led the way for Northern Colorado (15-4, 4-2 Big Sky) with 12 points, junior Chris Kaba followed up with 11, and Neal Kingman and Devon Beitzel had 10 apiece.

But, as a team, the Bears shot 39 percent from the floor (24-61) -- only the fourth time all season they’ve come in below 40 percent -- and just 29 percent (6-21) from beyond the three-point stripe to see their winning streak end at six games and their winless streak against Portland State grow to 11 games, dating all the way back to the 1974-75 season.

The Vikings (8-9, 3-2) outclassed Northern Colorado in almost every category in this one, but their most glaring victory coming on the glass. Portland State outrebounded the Bears 45-30 in the victory, pushing Northern Colorado around like no other team has done this season.

“That was the story of the game and something we talked about at halftime,” Northern Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “It’s happened to us at times this year, but it’s never happened to us over a 40-minute stretch. (The Vikings) punked us, they manhandled us, they whipped our butt. They were the tougher team tonight and they deserved to win.”

Portland State jumped ahead 12-2 just after the first media time out and never trailed. Northern Colorado got to within one, 25-24, with Montgomery’s jumper at the 8:10 mark of the first half and was only down five at the break, thanks to some strong free-throw shooting (7-9) and a team-high eight points from Beitzel.

The Vikings put the game away early in the second half with a 16-5 run and led 58-42 with 12:46 to play after Melvin Jones, who led Portland State with 18 points, connected on a 3-pointer.

Northern Colorado cut that margin down to eight with 8:10 to play, but Portland State didn’t let it get any closer to hand the Bears their worst loss in Portland since falling 77-52 to the Vikings during the 1977-78 campaign.

“It’s gets down to guarding,” Boyle said. “If you don’t guard, you don’t rebound, you don’t have a chance to win the game. We were not good tonight. They beat us in every sense. And as bad as it was, we cut it to eight (with 8:10 to go), but from there we couldn’t get stops.

“We didn’t play well offensively tonight, and that’s disappointing because Portland State is one of those teams that’s struggled in that area, and we didn’t make them guard us. It’s just a bad outing for the Bears anyway you look at it, and I wasn’t very good as a coach tonight.”

Northern Colorado came into the game with a great chance to silence some echoes from its past against the Vikings and earn a heard-around-the-league statement victory in a gym that’s so rarely seen the visiting team exit a winner. Portland State has now won 13 straight home games and is 31-2 in the Stott Center since the beginning of the 2007-08 season.

Now, Northern Colorado faces a quick turnaround against Eastern Washington at 8:05 p.m. (MT) tomorrow night in Cheney, Wash. The Bears will fly to Spokane tomorrow morning and then turn their attention toward an Eagles club that fell tonight to Northern Arizona at home.

Northern Colorado remains in the midst of one of its finest seasons ever, but Boyle and his coaches and the players know they haven’t really accomplished anything yet. They had the chance to move a step toward accomplishment tonight in Portland, but it didn’t happen.

“There are two types of teams this time of year: those that are getting better and those that aren’t,” Boyle said. “We want to be the former, not the latter.”