December 16, 2009

Men's basketball stares down ULM, stays perfect at home

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Box score | Play-by-play | NC season stats | Tad Boyle KFKA postgame | ULM recap

GREELEY, Colo. -- It's funny how everything just seems to work out better when you're playing on your home court.

Northern Colorado men's basketball got a team-high 16 points from junior Taylor Montgomery on Wednesday night against the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and four of his teammates scored in double figures, too, to lead the Bears to a convincing 95-84 victory against the Warhawks inside Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

Just four days ago, the Bears (9-2, 1-1 Big Sky) finished off a season-opening string of nine road games out of 10 with a frustrating loss to Wyoming in Casper, Wyo., during UW's annual Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Wyoming Shootout.

Northern Colorado committed a season-most 31 fouls in the loss to the 'Pokes and shot a season-worst 56 percent from the free-throw line.

A different team seemed to take the floor Wednesday night, though.

Junior Devon Beitzel backed Montgomery's performance with 15 points against the Warhawks (3-7, 0-1 Sun Belt), on six-of-10 shooting from the field and three-of-five work from three-point range, and Mike Proctor and Chris Kaba (13 points apiece) and Yahosh Bonner (10) also had good nights for the Bears.

"We shot the ball well tonight as a team," Northern Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "We had five guys finish in double figures, and Will (Figures) and Neal (Kingman) were just a point away from it. Shoot, when you have seven of your top guys nearly get double figures, that's pretty darn good."

Northern Colorado, playing in just its second home game this season, tied a season high with 11 three-pointers made (McNeese State) and outscored ULM 13-2 in the final five-and-half minutes of the first half to break a 34-all tie and go into the break ahead 47-36.

The Bears pushed their lead all the way up to 20 with 8:30 left in the second half, but the Warhawks' 63 percent shooting in the second stanza kept NC from completely blowing the doors off this one.

"We talked about it at every timeout, that we have to extend the lead," Boyle said. "And the only way we do that is by getting stops. I thought midway through the second half, we did a really good job defensively. We created some offense with our defense, which really helps. Sometimes if you can get some turnovers and some easy buckets that helps with your energy and can really get you going."

Dynile Forbes led ULM with 25 points, Lawrence Gilbert added 16 points and Jarvis Hill came off the bench with 14.

Tony Hooper, ULM's leading scorer coming into the game at 12.6 points per game, scored just seven Wednesday, thanks in large part to Bonner, who tied with Beitzel for a game-high three steals.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," said Montgomery of Northern Colorado's second-best scoring defense in the Big Sky (66.2 points-per-game allowed). "We also know that if a team comes at us with a great guard or two they are going to have to deal with Yahosh. He sets our intensity and really rubs off on the rest of us."

The Bears will now return to the road one more time before Christmas when they take on Big 12-power Oklahoma at 11 a.m. (MT) on Saturday at Lloyd-Noble Arena in Norman, Okla. The game will be broadcast regionally on the Sooner Sports Network and internationally on ESPN360.com.

After that, Northern Colorado will return home for games against San Jose State (Dec. 21) and instate-rival Denver (Dec. 28).

"It's always exciting to play the big schools like that (Oklahoma)," Beitzel said. "I guess, just to play the schools that everyone wants to go to. It's a great opportunity. I'm going into that game with something to prove, and I hope my teammates are, too."