January 18, 2014

Bears bounce back with 84-73 win at Montana

Collin Boyles

– After the loss on Thursday in unexpected fashion, a question arose of how the Northern Colorado men's basketball team would respond. The Bears (11-4, 5-1 Big Sky) answered positively while winning for just the second time ever at the Grizzlies of Montana (7-8, 2-4 Big Sky), 84-73, in Dahlberg Arena.

It was a game of runs and the final one down the stretch would be the deciding factor in the 23rd game of the series history. A second-half rebound advantage of 23-4 also helped the Bears to the Big Sky road win to split the weekend. UNC shot over 50 percent for the seventh time this season, winning in each of those games.

"I'm really proud of these kids. They deserve the credit and had to turn the page (from Thursday night), and they did it," Head Coach B.J. Hill said. "These guys just have something about them when they're dialed in mentally; they were so in tune tonight. I told them they looked like the same team at Kansas State."

The Bears started the night strong after jumping to a 7-0 run, paced by freshman guard Jordan Wilson's (Los Angeles, Calif.) game-opening 3-pointer. After two Grizzlies free throws, senior guard Tate Unruh (Branson, Mo.) began a 10-3 run over the next three and a half minutes to take a 17-5 lead, the Bears' largest lead of the night. The Grizzlies answered back quickly while going on 12-0 run to tie the game at 17, half way through the period.

UNC continued on to a 28-22 lead before the two teams traded points. Junior guard Corey Spence (Baltimore, Md.) later was able to drive into the lane and put down a lay-up with the foul. He sank the and-one to give the Bears a 40-31 lead. Missed shot opportunities and rebounds along with a turnover allowed the Grizzlies to end the half on an 8-0 run. The lead for the Bears decreased to just one, 40-39, going into the locker rooms, despite the Grizzlies FG% of .700 (14-20).

"We got after them about the 70%, but to have a one-point lead with that is fortunate," Hill said. "I told them, 'If we can hold them to 40%, you guys can win.'"

The first shot of the second half gave Montana its first lead of the night while sinking a 3-pointer. The shot was followed by two free throws from UM to take its largest lead of the night, 44-40. The two teams traded turnovers before Wilson opened the second half for the Bears the same as the first, with a 3. An 8-4 run by the Bears tied the game at 48.

Only one more run would matter the rest of the way, coming just after the 48-48 tie. Four Bears scored in a 10-0 run to take a double-digit, 58-48, lead. The teams traded baskets, despite one turnover from the Bears, to keep the lead around 10. The Bears were able to hold the Grizzlies to just four rebounds in the second half, aiding in the final, 84-73.

"People don't understand how hard it is to bounce back after how bad (the players) played (Thursday night)," Hill said. "People would think it's easy but it's not. It takes a lot to do that and it tells me a lot about what (the players) have in them."

For the game the Bears shot 29-of-50 (58%) while the Grizzlies shot 25-of-47 (53.2%). UNC grabbed 31 rebounds compared to UM's 15, including the 23-4 disparity in favor of the Bears during the second half. The Bears used 11 offensive rebounds to put in 18 second chance points, while the Grizzlies totaled just two second chance points.

Leading the way for the Bears was the duo of Barden and Unruh, each scoring 20 points to lead the team. Junior guard Tevin Svihovec (Kingwood, Texas) and junior forward Dominique Lee (Oakland, Calif.) each followed with double-digits, scoring 12 and 10 points, respectively. Osborne led the way for the Bears in rebounding with seven. The Grizzlies' Kareem Jamar led the way for all scorers with 23 points while two others scored at least 17.

Northern Colorado heads back to Greeley, Colo., next week to host Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. The Bears will look to extend a nine-game home winning streak inside the walls of Butler-Hancock this season.