November 1, 2010

Beitzel, Garnica lead men's basketball in exhibition runaway

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GREELEY -- Northern Colorado basketball got 20 points from an old veteran Monday night and 16 from a diaper dandy in a expectedly convincing 93-61 exhibition win against Western State at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.

Senior Devon Beitzel was his usual self, connecting on seven field goals and three 3-pointers against the Mountaineers in his first game action in nearly nine months after a foot injury derailed his junior campaign last February.

And true-freshman Paul Garnica provided a glimpse of the future, making his debut with an 6-of-8 shooting night, including a 4-of-5 performance from beyond the arc.

Senior Taylor Montgomery had 13 points in 19 minutes, senior Neal Kingman added 10 of his own and four assists, while sophomore Elliot Lloyd moved into the starting point guard spot, following the departure of Yahosh Bonner, and scored 10 points and grabbed three boards.

It all added up to a "win" in new head coach B.J. Hill's debut, although the Bears' first real test won't come until next Friday, Nov. 12, when NAIA program Tabor College comes calling.

"We needed to play a game against somebody else," Hill said. "We've been banging against each other in practice for the last couple weeks, and it was good to get out there against another program.

"It was nice to see some people (1,276) in the stands tonight, and I hope they liked what they saw and will keep coming back. Our guys played hard tonight -- we didn't always play the smartest -- but we played hard. We're still figuring out what our rotations will be and what guys' roles will be, we've still got a lot of work to do, but we're getting there."

Hill's program shot out to a 7-0 advantage just after the first media timeout, and the Bears pushed that lead to 22 at the half, after Lloyd's jumper made it 48-26 with 13 seconds remaining.

Beitzel scored 14 of his points in 18 minutes of the first half, showing no ill effects of last February's injury.

"Devon made some tremendous plays tonight and showed the kind of tenactiy you've got to play with to have success at this level," Hill said. "He's such a veteran player and is setting such a good example for the rest of the guys in that locker room. It was great to see him out there again after the way last year ended."

A Lloyd 3-pointer with 4:31 remaining in the game and a pair of deep bombs from Garnica on Northern Colorado's next two possessions pushed the bulge to 90-53 before Hill called off the dogs.

"We've kind of got two different units on this team," Hill said. "There's a core group of guys here who have been through the battles with us over the last couple seasons, but there's also some of the newer players that will fill roles for us this year. The Emmanuel Addos, the Paul Garnicas, the Xzaivier James.

"Having guys who have done it is important, but having supplemental talent is what pushes you over the top. It was great to get them some time tonight on the stage with the lights on."

James came to the Bears this offseason as a walk-on from Greeley Central. He made a name for himself on the local high school scene, and his 10 minutes on Monday, including three in the first half, came as somewhat of a surprise.

He didn't look overwhelmed, though, and Hill said his insertion in the game was anything but a gimmick.

"Xzaivier James plays because he does what we want defensively," Hill said. "I've been preaching that to the guys since I started, that I don't care if you're a scholarship player or not. If you're going to play on this team, you're going to play defense. X has bought into that, and he was rewarded tonight."