February 19, 2011

Bracket racket! Bears bust New Mexico State

Box score | Play-by-play | NC season stats | B.J. Hill KFKA postgame

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Taylor Montgomery drew a charge with four seconds remaining Saturday night, and Chris Kaba hit a free throw a second later to lift Northern Colorado past New Mexico State 82-80 in a Sears ESPN BracketBusters win at the Pan American Center.

Devon Beitzel hit nine of 15 from the field to lead all players with 28 points for Northern Colorado (15-10, 10-3 Big Sky), and his backdoor layup with 1:31 remaining put the Bears ahead 80-78.

Neal Kingman's free throw at 56 seconds and Montgomery's drawn charge with 4.1 seconds to play sealed the win.

Kaba and Kingman added 15, Montgomery chipped in with 11, and Mike Proctor snatched a season-high 11 rebounds to lead Northern Colorado to its first nonconference road win of the season and improve it to 3-1 all-time against the Aggies (14-13, 8-4 WAC) and 3-0 against WAC teams over the last two years.

"That's just how crazy basketball is," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "We hold Montana seven days ago to 44 percent (shooting) and crush them on the boards, offensively, at least, and only have nine turnovers and don't play worth a darn. Tonight, we let a team shoot 57 percent in their own gym and come away with a win.

"It's just a credit to our guys. I saw some fight in some guys tonight that I haven't seen in awhile."

Hernst Laroche drove the lane on New Mexico State's second-to-last possession but barreled into Montgomery, who had clearly established position near the basket. Kaba drew a quick foul on the Bears' ensuing inbounds and hit one-of-two freebies to set the stage for the Aggies' final full-court push.

Troy Gillenwater, New Mexico State's leading scorer coming in, got a good look from the corner at the buzzer but his shot bounced off the side of the backboard, and the Bears rushed off the court with their first win this season when allowing an opponent to score 80 or more points.

Northern Colorado led by as many as 11 early in the first half and hit nine-of-14 first-half 3-pointers en route to a 52-43 lead at the break. The Bears then never trailed in the second half even though they missed all 11 of their shots from long range.

Some key offensive rebounds erased some of those misses, including Proctor's eight second-half snags.

"Mike was so lively and active," Hill said. "We talk about being hard to box out, and he was hard to box out tonight if you were a New Mexico State guy. With the front line they bring in, it was nice to see us beat them in the paint 26-20. Their front line looked like an NBA team when we walked on the floor."

Laroche led the Aggies with 19 points, and Gordo Castillo and Gillenwater added 13 apiece in New Mexico State's first loss in six BracketBusters games.

Gillenwater, who was averaging 20.3 before the game scored just one point in the second half.

"I'm just so proud of the guys," Hill said. "They were so tuned in and they were fighting. We talk about fighting and protecting what you've worked so hard to develop. What they've gone through this season ... I can't tell you how proud I am of them."