Beitzel pours in season-high 31 as Bears drop Bobcats
BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Senior Devon Beitzel added another bullet point to his 2011 Big Sky MVP resume Thursday night with a season-high 31 points against Montana State in a crucial 86-77 road victory at Worthington Arena.
The Bears (14-9, 10-2 Big Sky) made 21 of their final 22 free throws to hand the Bobcats a sixth straight loss and stay atop the league standings by a game heading into a Saturday showdown with second-place Montana in Missoula.
Beitzel connected on all nine of his free-throw attempts to run his perfect-from-the-line streak to 19 and hit four of six 3-pointers in scoring 30 points for just the second time in his career and the first since putting in 32 against Northern Arizona in December 2008.
He also moved from seventh to fifth on the Bears' all-time scoring list at 1,335 points, surpassing John McFarland (1994-97; 1,326) and Jim Hruska (1956-60; 1,330).
"I should have benched (Kaba) a long time ago," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill quipped after the game. "If he's going to respond like that ... He didn't shoot it great, but he was just another part of a great team win. I thought every guy who got in the game tonight made a huge play."
None of Beitzel's points were bigger than the six he put in on consecutive 3-pointers with about six minutes left in the game.
Montana State (11-14, 5-8) took its first and only lead of the game at 63-61 with 6:45 to play on a layup from Erik Rush (22 points), but Beitzel hit a couple contested bombs at 5:54 and 4:56 to give the Bears a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Shawn Reid added 21 points for the Bobcats, who shot less than 50 percent (39.6) for the 10th consecutive game and were outrebounded 37-28 -- the seventh consecutive team to lose the rebounding battle against Northern Colorado.
"That's where these guys bail me out," Hill said. "I was able to make two calls for Devon on the run, and they just get to their spots and they execute. They were able to execute a play I don't think I've called more than three times this year, and they execute it to a T, and he hits the first one.
"And then we make another one on the fly, and (MSU) does a good job of defending it and so our guys just read the play and read how they were defending it and they made the right read and Devon bangs another one."
Redshirt-freshman Tate Unruh (six points) then put the cherry on top on Northern Colorado's surge with a three on the Bears' next possesion that put them ahead 70-65 with four minutes to go.
"A freshman stepping up and banging that shot is just big time," Hill said.
Northern Colorado then solidified its third win in Bozeman in four seasons by splashing home 14 of 15 free throws in the final three minutes, including six from Proctor, who scored in double figures for the second straight game after not for the previous nine games.
He entered Thursday having connected on just 50 percent (13-26) from the line on the season.
"And everybody knew it," Hill said, in response to Proctor's struggles from the line this year. "I couldn't get him out of the game quick enough, and he hit two, and then I just felt good about it. After I saw the first two go in, and they tried to foul him again quick before I could get Neal in, and he made them again, I'm like, 'He's staying.'"
"Mike's really good in late-game situations in guarding ball screens and switching out on guards, and so I went with him, and he did a great job for us."
Northern Colorado now moves onto a huge game Saturday night against the Grizzlies (17-7, 9-3), who kept pace with the Bears with a 64-44 victory against Sacramento State.
A victory there would give Northern Colorado a two-game cushion in the regular season race with three games remaining.