#12 Bears hit the boards in the second half to stay perfect at home
GREELEY, Colo. -- Devon Beitzel hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 16 points Friday night as Northern Colorado (No. 12 Mid-Major Top 25) fended off Sacramento State 79-65 to stay undefeated at home this season and keep the Hornets winless in Big Sky Conference road games dating back to Dec. 2006.
Will Figures added 13 points for the Bears (17-4, 6-2 Big Sky), who hit 11 three-pointers in the victory to notch at least 10 treys in a game for the sixth time this season, and Neal Kingman scored in double figures (10 points) for the third straight game.
Northern Colorado, which won its 12th straight home game (two short of tying the school record), outrebounded the Hornets 29-10 in the second half and limited Sacramento State's leading scorer Sultan Toles-Bey to just two points en route to winning at least 17 games in a season for just the seventh time in school history.
"We struggled to make some shots in that first half, in a stretch, and that's going to happen," Northern Colorado coach Tad Boyle said, "but I give a lot of credit to Sacramento State. They are second in our league in field-goal percentage defense -- they are leading the conference in steals -- so sometimes you have to tip your hat to the competition. What makes it feel good is that we win a game going away tonight, by 14 points, when we shoot 42 percent from the field. We haven't done that very often since we've been here. I'm just really proud of the guys.
"And how about the crowd tonight? The students were out, the community was out. This is the vision we had when we came here about Northern Colorado basketball. Not necessarily just winning games, but just making it an event where you can bring out your family and have a great time, and the students can come out on a Friday night and have a great time."
Justin Eller and Domineek Daniel scored 14 apiece for the Hornets (7-13, 1-6), which last won a Big Sky road game when it defeated Northern Colorado 74-70 on Dec. 30, 2006.
The Bears are 5-2 all-time against Sacramento State, have defeated the Hornets in five of their last six meetings and have won eight of their last nine games this season.
The Bears took a 34-31 lead into halftime and then scored the first five points of the second half, punctuated by a Yahosh Bonner wide-open three-pointer, to go ahead 39-31 with 18:31 left to play. The Hornets later got it down to 41-38 on a free throw from Duro Bjegovic, but Beitzel answered with a 3-pointer, and moments later Chris Kaba threw home a one-handed slam to put NC up 51-41.
Later, redshirt-freshman Elliott Lloyd hit back-to-back three-pointers to push Northern Colorado ahead 64-49 with 7:12 left.
From there, Sacramento State never really threatened again.
"There was a stretch there -- after we came up 39-31 -- where we gave up three straight layups," Boyle said. "I should have probably called timeout, but there's only so much you can say. We're a mature enough team, and I think our guys are smart enough now to sometimes overcome the coach and go out and play and do what they have to do, and they did that in the second half."
Northern Colorado scored the last five points of the first half to lead 34-31, but the bulge could have been bigger. The Bears shot out to an 18-11 lead just about four minutes into the game on a Beitzel fast-break 3-pointer that sent the near-capacity crowd through the roof.
The Hornets called a timeout immediately after, though, and outscored Northern Colorado 20-16 over the rest of the half.
Beitzel and Figures led the way for the Bears with 11 points apiece in the first half, and Daniel led all scorers with 12 points for Sacramento State.