January 4, 2014

Balanced attack leads to big win vs. Thunderbirds

Collin Boyles

-- For just the second time as a member of the Big Sky, the Bears (8-3, 2-0 Big Sky) were able to take down a conference opponent by more than 30 points. Saturday night's 91-55 win came through a balanced attack against a young Southern Utah (1-10, 0-2 Big Sky) team.

Eleven of 13 players with court-time scored for Northern Colorado, each having at least five points. The scoring was just one facet of the box score that Head Coach B.J. Hill's team won, including rebounds (holding Southern Utah to just five second half boards), assists, steals, turnovers, blocks, among others.

"I'm happy with the maturity we've shown in the last two games," Hill said. "Being able to follow a gameplan and understand, a thing that hurt us early in the year was how early we were shooting the ball and not giving defenses a chance to fail, we've done that the last two games."

The Bears defense stood early while denying any points from the Thunderbirds until three and a half minutes in. After gaining a six-point lead, both teams went back-and-forth in points.

SUU cut the lead down to three points, the smallest deficit since the Bears hit two free throws to open the game, but senior guard Tate Unruh (Branson, Mo.) kick started a 17-2 run over the next five minutes. The Bears shot 7-of-8 from the field in that stretch to build a 35-17 lead. The halftime lead for the Bears was brought down to 14, 39-25.

At the halfway mark, the Bears led in points in the paint, 20-8, points off of turnovers, 10-0, 2nd chance points, 6-2, and bench points 17-11. UNC shot 60% compared to SUU's 33.3% in the half. The Bears were able to capitalize off of five first half steals.

"I thought the press was good again," Hill said. "Switching it up and doing a couple different ones just took them out of a rhythm. They were in a really good rhythm against North Dakota (on Thursday) leading for 36 minutes, but I though (the press) took them out of their rhythm a little bit...When you're young, it's hard to put two of those nights together, especially on the road, and we were the benefactor."

The Bears started the second half on a 9-2 run to gain a 21-point lead. The second half was an even more generous half to the home team, as UNC shot 64 percent in the latter half to cruise to the 91-55 win. SUU shot 52.6 percent from the field in the second half, but it was no match for the Bears' dominance.

For the game, the Bears shot 31-of-50 (62%) compared to the Thunderbirds' 18-of-43 (41.9%). UNC won the rebound battle, taking 35 compared to 20 for SUU. Southern Utah was only able to grab five second half rebounds and just three offensive boards for the game.

Leading the way in scoring for the Bears was junior forward Tim Huskisson (Willard, Mo.) with 16 points followed by freshman guard Jordan Wilson (Los Angeles, Calif.) with 10. Unruh and juniors Dominique Lee (Oakland, Calif.) and Tevin Svihovec (Kingwood, Texas) scored nine points with the latter two coming off the bench. Eric Rippetoe was the only Thunderbird in double-figures, as he scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Northern Colorado prepares for its first full weekend of Big Sky action as Weber State comes to Butler-Hancock on Thursday followed by Idaho State on Saturday.