Bears lose back-to-back for first time in two seasons
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Senior Devon Beitzel scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half Tuesday, and senior Neal Kingman had a career-high 21, but it wasn't enough to push Northern Colorado past Santa Clara in an 87-84 loss inside the Leavey Center.
The Bears (2-2) were down 58-42 with 9:37 to go in the game when Beitzel went to work, helping the Bears pull back to within one, 77-76, with just more than two minutes remaining.
Later, junior Mike Proctor, who finished with nine points, grabbed a rebound and was fouled with 14 seconds left and the Bears down three, 83-80.
He was only able to make one of the freebies, though, and Evan Roquemore hit four straight free throws for Santa Clara (4-1) to secure the game and hand the Bears their first back-to-back loss since February 2009.
Kevin Foster scored 19 points and Ray Cowels added 18 to lead the Broncos.
"(Santa Clara) shot the ball well," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "55 percent from three is pretty darn good, and that's much better than they've shot it at any point this year. But we had a lot to do with that. We just did not come out with a defensive identity that we need to have in any game, much less being on the road with a good team.
"We had some guys want to step up in the second half, but the problem is we need guys to step up in the first half. For some reason, the last two games, we have not come out a hungry team. That's something that we desperately need to fix in a hurry."
Hill has preached about toughness and maturity ever since the Bears' lopsided loss to Arizona on Sunday afternoon, and Kingman brought a lot of both in this one.
The fifth-year player from Greeley West kept Northern Colorado in the game in the first half with seven points and two 3-pointers, and his 14 second-half points paired with Beitzel, who tied a career high with six assists, to give the Bears a potent 1-2 punch.
"We've got to find an edge about us," Hill said. "We've got some guys who are very analytical and like to think alot. This game usually comes down to whoever plays hardest and whoever plays hungriest.
"We need a lot more 'dog' in our game. We need to play hungry and get after people from the first 20 minutes and not wait until we're down 10 and all of a sudden find a sense of urgency."
Northern Colorado was down 8-4 early in the first half before putting together a 10-3 run, capped by a pair of Kaba 3-pointers to go ahead 14-11.
The Broncos, who hit five of their first six 3-pointers, later led 23-19 with 9:37 left before halftime and finished the first 20 minutes on a 15-9 run to lead 46-37 at the break.
Hill said afterward that his team lost this game in the first half, and a quick look at the shooting percentages backs that claim. The Bears shot a decent 45 percent before intermission, but Santa Clara shot 52 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and 60 percent from beyond the arc.
"Probably the last step in building a program that we haven't achieved yet -- and it's probably the hardest thing -- is learning how to handle success," he said. "We have not learned that yet. To build it up to where we got is one thing, but to teach guys how to handle the things that come along with success and the fact that you're going to play better teams and everything that goes along with it, is something we're still trying to figure out.
"I was hoping it wasn't going to be like that with the four seniors we have on this team, but they haven't been through it either. So in that situation they haven't experienced that either and are right there along with everybody else."
Northern Colorado will now head to Las Vegas in the morning to continue Las Vegas Invitational play on Friday and Saturday at the Orleans Arena.
The Bears will face Valparaiso at 3 p.m. Friday and then either Bethune-Cookman or Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday.