December 22, 2010

Bears' comeback falls just short in fourth-straight loss

Box score | NC season stats | Live blog replay

MONROE, La. -- For a little more than 25 minutes Tuesday, Northern Colorado men's basketball looked like a team already on Christmas break.

The Bears trailed Louisiana Monroe by 22 points with 14:36 remaining before authoring a comeback that would only have been more impressive had it actually led to a victory in a 78-75 loss at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

Northern Colorado (4-7) was staring at a 59-37 deficit just more than five minutes into the second half, but it shrugged off the situation and outscored the Warhawks 32-11 over the next 11 minutes.

Elliott Lloyd scored on a fast-break layup with 5:40 remaining to cut ULM's lead to three at 65-62. The Bears got to within one at 70-69 on a 3-pointer from Chris Kaba with 3:24 left.

Northern Colorado got to within one again, at 76-75, with 16 seconds left, but Kaba's potential game-tying 3-pointer with eight seconds to go missed rim and, after the Warhawks missed a couple of free throws, Neal Kingman's half-court heave with a second left missed the mark, too.

Senior Devon Beitzel continued his December hot streak by tying ULM's Lawrence Gilbert with a game-high 28 points to go along with a career-high eight rebounds and two steals. He entered the game ranked third in the country in free-throw shooting and furthered that march up the national rankings Tuesday with an eight-for-eight performance from the stripe.

Kaba added 16 points and four rebounds for the Bears, and Kingman, Emmanuel Addo and Lloyd added nine apiece.

The loss was Northern Colorado's second in a row against a Sun Belt Conference team (Denver on Saturday night) and was its fourth straight defeat overall -- its longest such streak since the 2007-08 season, when the Bears finished 13-16 and 6-10 in the Big Sky.

The Bears dispatched Louisiana Monore 95-84 last season in Greeley but couldn't duplicate that effort here tonight after digging themselves into a big hole. That digging started late in the first half, after Beitzel hit a 3-pointer at 6:49 to put Northern Colorado ahead 28-26. The Bears didn't hit another field goal until Beitzel again struck from deep a little over a minute into the second half.

In that nearly-eight minute stretch, Northern Colorado's lead dwindled and disappeared into a 46-36 deficit. The Warhawks finished the first half on a 14-7 run and then started the second half on a 17-4 spurt.

The Bears entered the game on the tail end of stretch of road games that had them in action in three games over the last five days. Northern Colorado will get a needed break the rest of this week and then reconvene on Dec. 26.

The Bears will begin Big Sky Conference play next Wednesday night, Dec. 29, against Portland State in Portland.