Men's basketball Denver comeback falls short
DENVER -- Northern Colorado men's basketball shot well Saturday night at Denver -- from the free-throw stripe and the field -- but couldn't hold off the Pioneers, who shot better against Northern Colorado than any team has all season in a 71-68 win.
The Bears (4-5) shot 42 percent from the floor against DU (3-9), won the rebounding battle 32-18 and made 29 of 33 free throws.
Those numbers are usually worthy of a victory, but not tonight.
Not with the Bears allowing the Pioneers to shoot 50 percent from the floor and 60 percent from beyond the three-point arc in the second half.
"We're struggling beyond comprehension right now with our defensive intensity and defensive discipline," said Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill, whose team is 1-5 outside of Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion this season. "We continue to have lapses on that side of the ball, and we've got to fix it quick if we're going to have any sort of success this season.
"Scoring 68 points at Denver is plenty of points. Our offense isn't broken. You look up and down the stat sheet, and you can easily see that. A team-wide defensive effort was lacking tonight, and it obviously cost us in a rivalry game like this that could have gone either way."
Devon Beitzel led all players with 21 points for the Bears, with the help of a 12-for-12 performance from the free-throw line that tied his own school record for free throws without a miss in a single game.
But Denver won this game because it scored the most points it has all season. The Pioneers' 71 points is their best offensive output since a 69-point effort against Alcorn State earlier in the year.
By the way the game started, it seemed like the Bears had a third straight win in the series in the bag. Northern Colorado hit its first four shots of the game, including a pair of 3-pointers and led 16-6 at the 13:55 mark.
The Bears scored just 11 more points before halftime, though, to enter the break down two, 29-27. Denver pushed its advantage to 12 a couple times in the second half, with the second instance coming at 12:35.
The Bears clawed their way back for much of the final 10 minutes, getting to within two, 63-61, with 1:54 remaining when Kaba poured in two free throws after getting fouled in a battle for a loose ball.
Northern Colorado would get no closer, though, and now has two days to stew before taking on another rival, Colorado State on Monday night in Fort Collins.
"Until we start taking it personally, and not letting teams do whatever they want to against us on the defensive end, we're going to have this feeling a lot," Hill said.