November 23, 2013

Svihovec's 20 points not enough to push Bears past rival Rams

Collin Boyles

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Guard Tevin Svihovec scored a season-high 20 points to give the Bears a chance to take a road game from the Colorado State Rams, but a late 11-3 run doomed any chance. CSU was able to pull out the 72-65 victory to even UNC's record at 2-2.

The Bears have had troubles in Fort Collins, Colo., since the '80s and although the team led by as much as seven halfway through the second half, the Rams (3-2) notched another loss on the Bears' belt. UNC has been unable to win at CSU since Dec. 2, 1986 in a 56-54 game.

"I thought we played really, really hard," Head Coach B.J. Hill said. "(I'm) very proud of the effort they put out on the floor. I knew we were going to be walking into a hornet's nest, kind of speak, on the boards because they were beaten by like 20 on the boards by UTEP. Knowing Coach Eustachy since I played in college, I knew what we were going to be in for. We didn't have a lot of prep time to emphasize that and it hurt us. I can't fault our guys.

"We need to clean up some things on the offensive end, and again we didn't have much practice time since New Mexico State, but I really like where we are at. We're competing at a high level, a new level from last year. No matter what happens, adversity-wise, in the game they don't quit and I love that as a coach."

From tip-off to the final horn, the Bears and Rams stayed close in the entertaining game. Svihovec (Kingwood, Texas) paced the Bears throughout the game including 13 first half points and shooting 50% in both halves. Rebounding was the back-breaker, though, as the Rams totaled 21 first half rebounds, 10 coming on the offensive side. Those offensive boards led to 14 second chance points for CSU in the opening half.

"We just didn't crash very well," Hill said "and what we call a crash is when we go get the ball. I thought Dominique (Lee) crashed, he didn't get a lot, but he at least went. Derrick (Barden) and Connor (Osborne) weren't able to get in there. That's what the guy in the other locker room is known for. He emphasizes it day after day so his guys crash extremely well. Hopefully our guys learn from that because I love the way his team plays and I would like our team to emulate them on both ends of the floor."

Despite the disparity in rebounds, the Bears and Rams traded scores and leads over the final minutes of the first half. Svihovec and guard Tate Unruh (Branson, Mo.) chipped in during a 7-2 run over the final 2:06 of the first half. The scoring run gave the Bears a 35-32 lead going into halftime.

Second-half action continued like the first, with back-and-forth scoring. Junior forward Tim Huskisson (Willard, Mo.) took over at the 14 minute mark to help give the Bears a substantial lead. He scored six straight points for the Bears over a one and a half minute span to give his team a two point lead.

"That's Tim (Huskisson's) deal," Hill said. "He's so versatile. Tim's just got to get better on the defensive end and stay engaged because when he's not, this is what happens.

Unruh and junior guard Corey Spence (Baltimore, Md.) converted layups to cap a 9-2 run, giving them a 52-46 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.

J.J. Avila of CSU answered with a jumper in the paint, but Barden put in a fast break layup to set the lead at six again. He then grabbed a rebound on the defensive end before ending up with the ball down the court and being fouled on a shot attempt. Barden converted 1-of-2 free throws to give the Bears their largest lead of the night at seven points. Poor shot opportunities gave the Rams their chance to get back into the game.

"If we play with each other we can (shoot well). It's when we get in a hurry and want to do things like one or two passes that leads us into trouble," Hill said. "When we take quick shots and try to make plays early in our possession, early in the shot clock, that's not good for us because it usually leads to turnovers or quick shots that starts the other team's break that we have a tough time defending."

Another run by the trailing team changed the momentum of the game. The crowd of 4,473 became more vocal as the Rams fans deafened Moby Arena. While the Rams were on the offensive end, though, the Bears faithful could be noticeably heard with the "Defense!" chant. Despite Bears nation in attendance, the Rams went on a 10-2 run to take a one point lead with just under six minutes to play.

The two teams traded baskets over the next couple minutes, but at the 4:41 mark CSU began a run that would be the last of the game. Turnovers and poor shots doomed the Bears as the Rams took advantage of free throw opportunities. CSU made seven straight points off of free throws to change the lead for the 14th and final time with two minutes remaining. Huskisson was able to put up a 3-pointer to cut CSU's lead to 68-65 before fouling out for the second time this season.

"They pressured us but when we had so many guys foul out it limited what we could run, execution wise, because we had so many guys in different positions than what they're used to," Hill said. "It's out of their comfort zone. We had threes playing four and fours playing five and again that's something I can help them out with and do a better job of."

Joining Huskisson on the bench after fouling out was Osborne and Lee, the first time for each this season. With the lack of the three, the Bears were unable to shoot comfortably leading to the final run of the Rams. Free throw shots from CSU concluded the scoring to set the final at 72-65.

"Three out of the four games they've played so far, last year would have been losses by a lot greater amounts," Hill said. "It's a good locker room atmosphere. I've seen a lot of growth. I think they understand it. Yeah, we're 2-2 but we don't lose sight of the process. They've got to trust in what we're doing, and I think they do, because they understand how close they are."

The Bears finished the night shooting better than the Rams, 45.3% compared to 41.1%, respectively. The problems for the Bears came in fouls and rebounds. CSU took advantage of UNC's 24 team fouls to convert 25-of-33 free throws. The Rams also totaled 41 rebounds on the night, almost evenly spread among halves with 21 in the first and 20 in the second. Fifteen offensive rebounds for the home team led to 18 second chance points, while the Bears were able to grab just 26 rebounds, the lowest single-game total by 14, and five offensive boards for zero second chance points. UNC is now 0-2 when being outrebounded.

Svihovec led the way for the Bears in scoring with 20 points followed by Barden and Spence with 11 each. Barden again led his team in rebounds, although this time he recorded just five. Svihovec, Unruh and Huskisson each followed in rebounds with three each. Spence recorded his highest assist total since joining the Bears with six dimes.

The Bears will return home to host three straight games, the first coming against Bethune-Cookman on Saturday, Nov. 30 as a continuation of the Colorado State Challenge. UNC will then host Prairie View A&M the next day to wrap up the challenge.