December 28, 2007

Men's Basketball Wins Big Sky Conference Opener

Dec. 28, 2007

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GREELEY, Colo. - The University of Northern Colorado won its 2007-08 Big Sky Conference season opener with a 74-60 victory over Sacramento State to even its season record at 6-6. The Hornets fall to 2-9 and 0-1 in league action.

 

Senior guard Sean Taibi exploded off the bench for a season-high 24 points on six three-pointers, while junior forward Jabril Banks scored 16 points and shocked many in the stands by making his first three-point attempt of the year and he led the club with eight rebounds. He also was 7-for-8 from the free throw line - helping the team to a .938 percentage from the charity stripe (15-for-16). Freshman forward Neal Kingman and sophomore forward Jefferson Mason also both came off the bench tonight to contribute 11 points and grab four rebounds. Both junior guard Robert Palacios and senior guard Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos led the game with four assists.

 

Northern Colorado out-rebounded Sacramento State by 20, 43-23 and held the Hornets to just three offensive rebounds. Both teams turned the ball over frequently as NC had 24 and SAC tallied 19. The Bears also held the conference's leading scorer, Loren Leath, to just five points as the guard went 1-for-11 from the floor and just 1-for-6 from the three-point line.

 

"That was the Sean we all know and love," said Head Coach Tad Boyle. "I'm so happy for him and the guys in the locker room were so happy for him after the game too. It's never easy to be out for two to three weeks and come back."

 

Sacramento State was led by freshman guard Vinnie McGhee with a career-high 19 points, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and guard Clark Woods scored 11 for the only other player in double figures. Forward Randy Adams led the club with five rebounds, while McGhee had three assists and forward Justin Williams led all players with four steals.

 

"I thought Sacramento State played well tonight," continued Boyle. "I've watched a lot of their tape and I thought this was the best game they've played. Robert Palacios is the reason we were able to shut down Leath. He's a guy we didn't have last year and he relishes the opportunity to guard the opponent's best player. Robert Palacios makes us a much better team."

 

Northern Colorado struggled from the floor in the first half, shooting just .333 from the field (9-27) and making just one of nine three-point attempts, but were 12-of-13 from the free throw line to give them the 31-28 edge at the break. Both Banks and Taibi had just five points each, while Mason led all scorers with nine and Kingman had eight. Sacramento State shot .393 from the field, but also struggled from beyond the arc, hitting just 1-of-6.

 

In the second half, Banks and Taibi combined for 30 points as the team shot .533 from the floor (16-30) and hit .667 (8-12) from the three-point line. They were also a perfect 3-for-3 from the free throw line. The Hornets also shot better in the second stanza, .440 from the field (11-25) and .545 from the three-point line (6-11), but it was not enough.

 

Northern Colorado travels to Flagstaff to take on Northern Arizona in the first Big Sky Sunday Game of the Week on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. Game time is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. The game will be the conference opener for Northern Arizona who is 6-8 on the year.