Texas Two-Step in Store for Bears This Weekend
Jan. 12, 2006
University of Northern Colorado Bears (2-17)
vs. University of Texas-Pan American Broncs (3-13)
Game #20 * Saturday, January 14, 2006 * 12:30 p.m. MT
Edinburgh, Texas * UTPA Fieldhouse (4,000)
University of Northern Colorado Bears (2-17)
vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (11-6)
Game #21 * Monday, January 16, 2006 * 6:00 p.m. MT
Corpus Christi, Texas * American Bank Center (4,000)
The Series: Texas-Pan American and the Bears are tied 1-1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi leads 2-0.
The Coaches: Craig Rasmuson is 60-122 (.330) in his 7th season with Northern Colorado and 126-188 (.401) in his 12th year overall.
Robert Davenport is 15-29 (.341) in his second year at UTPA. Ronnie Arrow is 99-82 (.547) in his 7th year at TAMUCC and 213-175 (.549) in his 14th year as a head coach.
Radio: Bears' Radio Network (Flagship Station - Newstalk KFKA 1310-AM in Greeley). KFKA's Troy Coverdale will have the play-by-play which starts with a 25-minute pre-game show. The broadcast can also be heard free online at UNCBears.com.
Livestats: Live stats will available through links at UNCBears.com.
After a two-game home stand, the University of Northern Colorado men's basketball team will take a two-game trip to the Lone Star State to battle a pair of Division I Independent rivals. The Bears play at Texas-Pan American on Saturday (12:30 p.m. MT) and conclude the trip with a Monday date at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (6:00 p.m. MT).
THE BEAR FACTS
Northern Colorado, 2-3 since the Christmas Break, put up a valiant effort on Wednesday night against in-state rival Denver. After losing to the Pioneers by 19 points at home a year ago, the Bears led early in the second half and kept the game under six points down the stretch but could not seal the deal and hand DU a loss. Kirk Archibeque (27) and Sean Taibi (24) each had season-high points for the Bears, marking the first time in almost a year a Northern Colorado duo had scored 20-plus points in the same game.
The Bears are returning to Edinburg for the second straight year to face Texas-Pan American. The Broncs will pay a return visit to Greeley on Jan. 30 of this year. The teams split a home-and-home series a year ago.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the class among Division I Independents so far this season, as they are the only independent above .500 as of Jan. 12. The Islanders were ranked No. 151 in the RPI by CollegeRPI.com entering this week. TAMUCC will play in Greeley on Jan. 28.
The Bears also hit the road next week, playing at Utah Valley State, but will then play five of their final seven games of the year at home.
Texas-Pan American: The Broncs are fresh off a 66-43 victory over Monterrey Tech on Jan. 10, a win that snapped a 10-game losing streak that dated back to the end of November. UTPA has three wins on the year, but only one has come against a Division I foe (a 60-57 win over Texas Southern). The Broncs are 2-3 at home this season, including a heartbreaking 70-66 overtime loss to Tulsa on Jan. 7. Like Northern Colorado, Texas-Pan Am has played a tough road slate, matching up with the likes of Illinois, Kent State, Texas, Texas Tech, Oregon State and Arkansas. They also hosted Air Force, losing 81-68 in December. Dexter Shankle leads the team with 11.1 points per contest.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: The Islanders snapped a rare two-game losing streak last time out, topping Prairie View A&M 105-77 on Jan. 9. Corpus Christi does not play again until hosting the Bears on Monday. The Islanders have wins over South Florida and Texas Christian this season, and have also played Tulsa, Missouri State and Maryland among others. Transfer Chris Daniels leads the team with 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Like Northern Colorado, the Islanders will shed their independent status as they join the Southland Conference.
Series History: The Bears and Broncs met for the first time last season, splitting a home-and-home series. UTPA lost by 14 in Greeley without their leading scorer, but with him in the lineup three weeks later, won by five on their home court. The Bears and Islanders have played in each of the last two seasons, with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coming out on top each time. The Islanders won by 18 on their home court two years ago and squeaked out a six point win in Greeley last season.
The Last Time We Met: After building an early first half lead and pulling to within a bucket late in the game, Northern Colorado saw Texas-Pan American hit 6-of-7 free throws over the final 46 seconds to fall 77-72 at the UTPA Fieldhouse on Jan. 29, 2005. The free throws were impressive for the Broncs (10-10) who hit only 6-of-13 in the first half and had missed 10 charity stripe attempts entering that final minute of play. Texas-Pan Am was led by Sergio Sanchez who scored all of his game-high 23 points in the second half after seeing only limited time in the first half due to foul trouble. The Broncs would weather a second half UNC run and went up by eight points on several occasions, including with 2:39 to play. The Bears pulled to within 72-70 on a Nolen 3-pointer with 33 seconds left, but would get no closer. UTPA shot 71.4 percent (15-21) from the field in the second half to finish at an even 50 percent for the game while the Bears hit on 17-28 (60.7%) in the second half and 46.2 percent for the game after hitting only 29.2 percent in the opening half. Nolen led the Bears with a season-high 22 points as he hit on a season-high 5-of-7 3-pointers. Derrick East added a career-high 20 points for the Broncs who have won 16 of their last 19 games at home.
Thomas Bailey hit a short jump shot with 49 seconds and Corey Lamkin had 26 points and 11 rebounds as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi overcame the ejection of its coach to defeat Northern Colorado 87-81 on Jan. 22, 2005. Bailey, who scored 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting, broke a 79-79 tie with a jumper in the lane for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (12-6). Josh Ervin and Travis Bailey sealed the game with two free throws in the final minutes. Islanders coach Ronnie Arrow's ejection came with 13:11 left in the first half when he was hit with his second technical after arguing a no call with referee Kenneth Wilson. Sean Nolen converted the four free throws to put Northern Colorado ahead 21-11. Energized by the ejection, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi battled back to tie it at 24-24 on three straight 3-pointers by Travis Bailey. The momentum shift lasted until 3-pointers by Matt Kline and Parish Brockman sparked a 10-0 run late in the half to put Northern Colorado up 48-43 at the break. Brockman led Northern Colorado (5-15) with 18 points. Texas A&M Corpus Christi erased a halftime deficit and took a 55-54 lead on a layup by Thomas Bailey, then, went up 75-69 with 7:11 left on two 3-pointers by Aaron White. Nolen's 3-pointer with 3:44 remaining tied it at 75 for Northern Colorado. He matched his season-high with 16 points for the Bears.
THE BEAR NECCESSITIES
If you don't have time to read everything in this packet, these are the key notes about the Bears.
After playing two games at home last week, the Bears hit the road this weekend for two games in Texas; they also play on the road next week (at Utah Valley State) and will then have five of their final seven games at home ... after losing by 19 to Denver last season at home, the Bears lost by only six (79-73) on Wednesday night; Kirk Archibeque (27) and Sean Taibi (24) each had 20-plus point games, the first time a UNC duo had accomplished that since Jan. of last season ... the Bears scored a season-high 90 points in the 90-66 victory over UC-Colorado Springs on Monday; Kirk Archibeque scored 20 points and Michael Gordy added a career-high 19 ... 14 of the Bears 18 different opponents this season have a .500 or better record as of Jan. 12 ... the Bears snapped a 17-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 76-70 victory over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 30 ... Sean Taibi has hit 48 3-pointers this season, the 13th highest total in Division I as on Jan. 12 ... senior guard Chris Gebhardt rejoined the team at the Christmas Break; the walk-on played two years with the Bears before playing the last two seasons with the Northern Colorado football team ... Northern Colorado has struggled away from home, losing their last 12, and 27 of its last 28 and 37 of their last 39 true road games dating back three seasons; when you factor in neutral site games as well, the Bears have lost 33 of their last 34 games and 43 of 45 away from Butler-Hancock (both road and neutral games) ... on Nov. 25 at Cal, head coach Craig Rasmuson coached in his 300th collegiate game; he did so against Ben Braun, the coach he served as an assistant for at Eastern Michigan in 1990-91 ... Taibi suffered a broken nose against Cal State Northridge and had to wear a protective mask for five games; he wore the mask for the first-time against Montana State and for the last time against Oregon State ... sophomore Kirk Archibeque had a double-double in each of the first three games to start this season; he had only four career double-doubles prior to this season - he has six total double-doubles this season ... Taibi registered his first career double-double against Colorado State (Nov. 18); he had 14 points and 10 rebounds ... this season Northern Colorado returns seven players from last year's squad including Division I Independent first-team selection Archibeque and All-Newcomer pick Sean Taibi ... Archibeque was picked as the D-I Independent Preseason Player of the Year by Lindys, Street & Smith and CBS Sportsline ... Northern Colorado officially becomes a member of the Big Sky Conference in 2006-07.
NORTHERN COLORADO NOTES
Bears Play Pioneers Tough: Last season, Denver came to Greeley and led by 20 points (37-17) at the half on their way to a 19-point victory. That DU squad was one game away from the NCAA Tournament and did play in the NIT. With most of their same parts back, including potential All-American Yemi Nicholson, Denver came to Greeley once again this season, but managed only a 79-73 victory. The Bears led in the second half and kept the game close the entire way. Kirk Archibeque (27) and Sean Taibi (24) each had season-high points and became the first Bears duo to have 20-plus point games in the same contest in a calendar year. Denver has won 12 of the last 13 in the series and the two teams will meet once more this season, on Feb. 15 in Denver.
Taibi Deadly From the Outside: Sophomore guard Sean Taibi has been deadly accurate from long range this season, hitting 48-of-109 (44.0%) from long range through 19 games. He has hit a 3-pointer in every game this season and hit four 3-pointers against each Lipscomb, Wyoming, Northern Arizona, Nebraska and Denver, and five 3-pointers at Loyola Marymount. He is currently on pace to hit 73 3-pointers this season, which would be two off the school record of 75 set by Sean Nolen in 2002-03. His 48 total 3-pointers currently ranks 13th nationally, trailing the nation's leader (Jack Leasure of Coastal Carolina) by 15 trifectas.
Tough Opponents: Of the Bears 18 opponents (who they've played 19 total times) so far this season, 14 of those teams have .500 or better records, including Air Force (14-2) who just lost their second game of the season on Jan. 11 (and who is receiving votes in the national polls) and Colorado State (11-4) who has 11 wins. South Dakota State, Loyola Marymount, Eastern Michigan and Division II Colorado-Colorado Springs are the only teams the Bears have played this season that do not have a .500 or better mark as of Jan. 12.
Turnovers Not As Much A Factor Anymore: Turnovers were the story of the game to start the season, as the Bears had 20 or more turnovers in seven of their first 10 games of the season, including a season-high 31 vs. Cal State Northridge (the most turnovers for a Bears team in the last six seasons). But UNC has had 15 or fewer turnovers in four of its last five games (after not having 15 or fewer miscues in the first 14 games of the season), including matching a season low with only 10 turnovers vs. Denver (Jan. 11).
Charity Stripe Finally Favors Northern Colorado: After losing the free throw battle to opponent's all season long, the Bears have finally turned around their luck as of late. After making only 3-of-11 at Nebraska (Jan. 3), the Bears made 33-of-44 (75%) against UC-Colorado Springs and 11-of-13 (84.6%) against Denver in their last two games. In the team's prior six games, they had shot 65% or lower from the free throw line seven times. That improvement helped the team raise its season free throw percentage as a team to 64.4%, after being in the low 60's.
Field Goal Shooting Improves: After hitting below 40 percent from the field in three of four games, the Bears have snapped out of that funk the last two games, shooting 50 percent or better against both UC-Colorado Springs and Denver. Northern Colorado hit 57.4% against UCCS and 52.8% against the Pioneers, the first time this season they have had back-to-back games of 50 percent or higher from the field. The Bears accomplished that feat five times in 2004-05.
Gordy Makes Return to the Lineup: Sophomore Michael Gordy missed six games from the middle of December until early January with an injury. He made his return against Nebraska, scoring an important 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting, as the Bears gave the Huskers a scare in Lincoln. He did one better in his second game back, scoring a career-high 19 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting against Colorado-Colorado Springs (Jan. 9). He hit 7-of-11 from the free throw line in 22 total minutes of action in that game. This season, Gordy has been saving his best for last at times. At Wyoming (Nov. 22), Gordy scored all 11 of his points in the second half. The next game, at Cal, Gordy scored all 15 of his points in the second 20 minutes. He continued his hot streak by matching his career-high, 17, against Cal State Northridge. He also scored 17 points against Montana State on Dec. 1. He ranks third on the team in scoring at 9.2 points/game.
Lineups: In the search for the right combination of lineups this season, head coach Craig Rasmuson has used eight different starting lineups in 2005-06. 11 of the team's 12 active members has started at least one game this season (the only one not to start is walk-on Chris Gebhardt who joined the team at the break). It was the combination of Matt Kline, Sean Taibi, Dwayne Birden, Erik Olson and Cory Lowe that finally got the Bears a win on Dec. 30 vs. Eastern Michigan. Northern Colorado used 10 different starting lineups in 2004-05 and 11 different lineups in the 2003-04 season.
Olson, Four-Year Starter and All-Around Contributor: Senior Erik Olson has been a key member for the Bears for the past four years. He has played in 101 career games (10th most in school history) and if he plays in the final 10 games this season, will finish his career having played in 111 career games, the fifth-highest total in school history. He played in his 100th career game on Jan. 9 vs. Colorado-Colorado Spring. Among career statistical leaders in program history, Olson ranks seventh in career steals (111) and should also finish his career in the top-10 in rebounding, as he currently has 526 rebounds, 47 caroms out of 10th place.
Kline Helps Out: Junior Matt Kline has established himself as the team's top assist man this season, averaging 4.5/game, second among D-I Independent players. Of late, he has been on fire, handing out 6.8 assists/game in his last six contests. He dished out seven helpers at Kansas, nine at home vs. Eastern Michigan and equaled his career-high (set earlier this season against Oral Roberts) by totaling 10 assists vs. Northwestern (Jan. 1). The amazing fact in the Northwestern game was that Kline had the 10 assists on only 18 total made field goals by the Bears. When he reached 10 assists earlier this season against ORU, it marked the first time a Bear play had reached double-digit assists since Sean Nolen set the school single-game record with 14 against Kendall College on Nov. 28, 2003. He narrowly missed equaling that mark again on Jan. 11 vs. Denver, as he had nine assists. Kline now ranks eight in school history in career assists (230), 21 out of seventh place all-time.
Birden Breaks Out: A break for Christmas sure did help reenergize junior Dwayne Birden. In the six games prior to the break, Birden had only 15 total points (2.5/game). In the first game back, Birden played all 40 minutes against Eastern Michigan, scoring 11 points, grabbing six rebounds, dishing out three assists, blocking a shot and throwing down a monstrous dunk on the fast break. Against Northwestern he had nine points and a season-high nine rebounds. He also had nine rebounds at Nebraska (Jan. 3) and eight vs. Denver (Jan. 11). Birden is averaging 8.2 points and 7.4 rebounds/game in the five contests since the break.
Home Sweet Home: Northern Colorado is 225-150 (.600) all-time at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion, which opened on Feb. 4, 1975 (a 64-56 loss to Air Force). The Bears were 7-5 at home last season and are 2-5 there this year. Following a loss to Colorado State (Nov. 18), UNC is 21-9 all-time in home openers at Butler-Hancock in 30 seasons of playing in the building.
Division I Independent Leaders: Several Bears rank high in the D-I Independent "conference" statistical leaders as of Jan. 12. Sean Taibi's 48 made 3-pointers is first among independent players. Matt Kline's 4.5 assists/game in second as is Kirk Archibeque's 7.9 rebounds/game. As a team, UNC ranks fourth in field goal and 3-point shooting and fifth in rebounding.
Archibeque Powers Bears: Sophomore center Kirk Archibeque proved to be the team's top player last year, earning Division I All-Independent first-team honors (as he was the only non-senior on the team). Archibeque also became the first freshman in school history to lead the team in both scoring (12.1) and rebounding (6.0). His 58.1% (136-234) field goal percentage ranked No. 23 nationally and second nationally among freshmen. Prior to this season, Archibeque was named the D-I Independent Preseason Player of the Year by Lindy's, Street & Smith and CBSSportsline preseason magazines. He has proven those preseason predictions to be accurate, as he started the season by averaging 12.5 points and 7.9 rebounds through 19 games. Entering the season, he had only four career doubles - this season he has seven double-doubles through 19 games. He ranks second among independent players in rebounds and has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 14 games. He snapped out of a mini slump against UC-Colorado Springs (Jan. 9), scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He one-upped that against Denver (Jan. 11), scoring 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
Frequent Flyer Miles: The Bears finished a four-game road swing that saw them travel nearly 4,800 miles on Dec. 22 at Kansas (they also played Oregon State, Loyola Marymount and Northern Arizona on the trip). After logging more than 20,000 miles each of the last two seasons, the Bears played 12 of their first 17 games away from home. Northern Colorado will, however, play 5 of its final 10 games of the year at Butler-Hancock.
Bears Increase Rebounding: Despite the fact the Bears are 2-17 this season, they have shown great improvement on the backboards from last year. Northern Colorado has out-rebounded 10 of its 19 opponents this season.
Gebhardt Rejoins the Team: The Bears basketball team picked up a new member of Christmas break. Senior Chris Gebhardt rejoined the team after a season and a half away from the squad. Gebhardt, a native of Loveland, Colo. where he was an all-area selection, redshirted with the team in 2001-02. As a freshman in 2002-03, he saw action in six games, playing 14 minutes and scoring three points. In 2003-04, he played in 27 games, starting the final six games of the season. He played a total of 506 minutes, averaging 3.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists/game. That season he hit the game-winning shot at Texas A&M-International, a leaner in the lane with 3.4 seconds left, lifting the team to a 64-63 victory and snapping a 13-game road losing streak. Gebhardt left the team last season and played the last two years with the Bears football team, where he played defensive back and teamed up with his twin, Greg. Chris registered six tackles and a pass break-up in 2004 and four tackles and a pair of interceptions in 2005. He will graduate in May with a degree in journalism. Gebhardt saw his first action of the season on Jan. 1 against Northwestern registering three rebounds.
Bears Sign Moore to National Letter of Intent: Northern Colorado signed one player during Novembers early signing period and he is turning out to be quite a steal. Darren Moore (Chino Hills, Calif./Ayala H.S.) signed a national letter of intent and will join the Bears program next season. Moore (6'2, 170 lbs., PG/SG) averaged 12 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game at Ayala Hills High School as a junior, as he earned first-team All-Sierra League honors and was a second-team All-California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) selection. This season he has exploded, averaging 24 points and four steals per game, including a 37-point game against Bloomington. The Bulldogs finished 23-7 last season, had a 9-1 conference record and lost in the state playoffs. Moore participated in the Double Pump West Coast All-Star camp, the adidas Super 64 and the adidas Best of the Summer events last summer. He played AAU basketball with the Inland Empire Basketball Program. Moore is the son of Duane and LaJunna Moore and plans to major in communications at Northern Colorado. He selected Northern Colorado over Northern Arizona, Loyola Marymount and UC Irvine. Moore, who is an early favorite for his conference player of the year honors, was in attendance when UNC played at Loyola Marymount on Dec. 17.
The Continued Move to Division I: The 2005-06 sports season marks year No. 3 in the "reclassification" process to Division I for the Bears. On May 10, 2002 the UNC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a move for the Northern Colorado intercollegiate athletics program to NCAA Division I. The 2002-03 sports year marked the last season for the Bears in the North Central Conference and the NCAA Division II level and was an "exploratory" year in the move. 2003-04 was the first season of the four-year reclassification period and last season (2004-05) marked year No. 2. The program officially becomes a Division I school (and eligible for NCAA Championships) in 2007-08.
Bears to Join Big Sky Conference in 2006-07: As the Bears continue the reclassification to Division I, they have finally found a conference home. On July 1, 2006, the program will officially become a member of the Big Sky Conference and will compete against a full BSC schedule in 2006-07. The department's programs (with the exception of women's volleyball - which got a waiver from the NCAA) will not be eligible for Big Sky championships or NCAA berths until 2007-08, the program's first full year of Division I competition. On the basketball court, the Bears will compete against the other eight Big Sky teams: Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Portland State, Sacramento State and Weber State.
Bears Not Shying Away From Tough Competition: Nobody can accuse Bears head coach Craig Rasmuson of scheduling easy games. During the reclassification process to Division I, Rasmuson has scheduled the best-of-the-best in helping the Bears prepare for Big Sky Conference play in 2006-07. Last year the Bears had 10 opponents end up playing in some sort of postseason. Eight squads were selected to play in the NCAA Tournament while two others were selected to play in the NIT. The eight selected for the NCAA Tournament were: Gonzaga (No. 3 seed), Oklahoma (No. 3), Syracuse (No. 4), Texas Tech (No. 6), Utah (No. 6), Iowa State (No. 9), New Mexico (No. 12) and Bucknell (No. 14). Two of those teams advanced to the Sweet 16 (Utah and Texas Tech) while the lowest seeded of those teams, Bucknell, pulled the biggest first round upset when they knocked off Kansas. Both Oral Roberts (Mid-Con) and Denver (Sun Belt) won their league's regular season titles but were knocked off in the championship games of their conference tournaments. Each lost in the first round of the NIT. At one point last season (Jan. 7), the Bears strength of schedule (SOS) was ranked No. 4 nationally; the Bears finished the year with the 132nd most difficult schedule in the country. In a ranking by Basketball Times, the Bears 2004-05 non-conference schedule was the 56th most difficult in Division I.
Division I Independents: This season, 10 NCAA Division I Independent men's basketball teams have joined forces to award Player of the Week awards and compile statistical leaders. The teams are UC Davis, IPFW, Longwood, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, Savannah State, South Dakota State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley State. Awards and statistics will be released on each Tuesday of the season beginning Dec. 6. An index of award winners and other information on D-I Independent men's basketball can be found at: http://uncbears.collegesports.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/110705aab.html.
Third Largest Crowd Comes to Butler-Hancock: When the Bears played Colorado State (Nov. 18), a crowd of 4,351 witnessed the game, marking the third largest crowd in Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion history. It trailed only the 4,674 fans that saw the Bears play Wisconsin-Milwaukee (March 18, 1989) in the NCAA Div. II Regional Championship game, and the 4,429 fans who saw the Bears battle Augustana (Feb. 23, 1989).
300: Head coach Craig Rasmuson coached in his 300th career game on Nov. 26 at California. He coached that game against Ben Braun, the former coach at Eastern Michigan. Braun was the head coach of the 1990-91 EMU team that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16; Rasmuson served as an assistant coach on that staff. On Dec. 30 of this season, Rasmuson scored a 76-70 victory over Eastern Michigan in Greeley.
Monkey Off Their Backs: Northern Colorado snapped an 0-for-14 stretch to start the season and won for the first time in 17 games (dating back to last season) with a 76-70 victory over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 30. The win was the first since topping Colorado College on Feb. 22, 2005. It was the first win over a Division I team since Feb. 4, 2005 at Longwood. The Bears led by two at halftime over EMU, but used a 7-0 run to start the second half and opened the game wide-open. UNC led by as many as 16 points with six minutes to play before eventually winning by six. The win left eight Division I teams without a victory as over Dec. 30, a group the Bears were happy not to be a part of.
Offense Wakes Up Against UC-Colorado Springs: The Northern Colorado offense got a boost from playing Division II in-state foe Colorado-Colorado Springs on Jan. 9. The Bears scored a season-high 90 points, the most points they had scored since putting up 110 last season against that same team. The Bears shot a season-high 57.4 percent, including a blistering 69.6% (16-of-23) in the second half. The Bears also made the most of their free throw opportunities, connecting on 33-of-44 (75%) free throw attempts, a season-high. Entering the game, the Bears were shooting just above 60% from the charity stripe.
A Big Run Of Their Own: The Bears have seen several of their opponents have big runs in games this year, including a 12-0 spurt by Kansas and a 14-0 spurt by Cal. But the Bears made a big run of their own on Jan. 3 at Nebraska. With the Cornhuskers leading by 17 with three minutes to play before halftime, Northern Colorado used a 7-0 run to end the half and begin the second half with a 12-0 spurt. The Bears capped that 19-0 run by taking a 37-35 lead in front of a then quiet 7,000 NU supporters. Overall, UNC held Nebraska scoreless for a stretch of 8:22. Nebraska did go on to pull ahead late and win 60-50.
A Good Showing Against the Big 12: In the Bears 60-50 loss at Nebraska, the team gave the Cornhuskers all they could handle before losing by 10. It was the best showing against a Big 12 team since losing by nine at Texas A&M on Dec. 16, 1969. All-time, the Bears are 20-33 against current Big 12 teams, as they own win over Colorado (18) and Kansas State (2). In Nebraska's next game out, they knocked off Oklahoma, who was ranked in the top-10.
No Rest For the Weary: As of Jan. 1, no team in the country had played more games than Northern Colorado has this year. The Bears played 15 games through New Year's Day. Last year, the Bears played 15 games before Jan. 1, which was more than any other Division I team, a mark they equaled once again this season.
Bears Have Struggled in TV Games: The Bears dropped a pair of national television games (ESPNU) to start the season, falling to Lipscomb and South Dakota State at the Guardians Classic. They also lost to Montana State (Dec. 1) and Air Force (Dec. 8) on Altitude Sports & Entertainment TV and to Kansas (Dec. 22) on ESPN Full Court. Northern Colorado played in six television games a year ago that were available to a national audience, and they came out on the losing end each time. In the past three seasons they have played on national television 12 times and are 0-12 in those games. The Bears final TV game of the year is Feb. 15 at Denver.
Big Sky Preview: The Bears officially become a member of the Big Sky Conference next season and got a preview of conference play in early December by hosting a pair of BSC teams. The Bears lost 83-69 to Montana State on Thursday, Dec. 1 and fell 88-78 to Northern Arizona on Dec. 3. On Dec. 19, they got a rematch with Northern Arizona, falling 63-52 in Flagstaff. UNC is 21-63 (.250) all-time against Big Sky teams and last defeated a Big Sky team on Dec. 2, 1977, when they topped Montana 76-75 in Greeley. Since then the Bears have lost 10 straight games to Big Sky teams. The Bears will play a full Big Sky schedule next season.
Panagiotakopoulos Shines in Home State: Playing in front of about 40 family members and friends who came up from Phoenix, sophomore guard Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos did not disappoint, tallying a career-high 19 points against Northern Arizona in Flagstaff (Dec. 19). Panagiotakopoulos hit on 8-of-11 shots (including 3-of-5 from 3-point range), dished out three assists and had two steals in a career-high 33 minutes. Panagiotakopoulos was starting only his second game of his UNC career. His first start game on Dec. 17 at Loyola Marymount; there he played in front of his immediate family for the first time all season, and scored five points, four assists and a pair of steals. Panagiotakopoulos has made the most of his playing time, as he is averaging 3.8 assists/game when he plays 10 or more minutes in a game (which he has done five times this season).
Slow Starts: After starting last year 0-6, Northern Colorado struggled out of the gate this season, starting 0-14. That was the first 0-14 start in program history. The previous slowest start had been in 1944-45, when the team started (and finished) the year 0-12. The Bears scored their first victory of the season on Dec. 30, a 76-70 win over Eastern Michigan.
The Masked Man From Pueblo: Sophomore Sean Taibi broke his nose on Nov. 26 vs. Cal State Northridge and was forced to wear a protective mask for the next five games. Taibi shedded the mask for the first time at Loyola Marymount (Dec. 17), and responded by hitting 5-of-10 3-pointers and scoring a season-high 21 points. But Taibi did not struggle with the mask too much, as in those five games he hit 11-of-25 (44.0%) from 3-point range, averaged 13.4 points/game and scored in double figures in four of those five games.
Breaking Into the Starting Lineup: A pair of Bears got their first career starts at Loyola Marymount (Dec. 17). Sophomore Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos and freshman Dorian McDaniel were each in the starting lineup for the first time for that game. McDaniel, a native of Culver City, Calif., got to play in front of a large crowd of fans, while Panagiotakopoulos got to play in front of his family - who had made the trip from Phoenix - for the first time this season.
Tournament Games Unkind: The Bears have now lost 10 straight games that have been part of in-season tournaments, dating back to the beginning of the 2003-04 season. Northern Colorado last won 85-68 against Western State at the Jalisco Hoops Classic in Alamosa, Colo. (Nov. 21, 2003). That win was also the Bears last on a neutral court. The Bears were 0-4 last season during in-season tournaments (losing two at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and two at the Iowa State Cyclone Challenge). This season the Bears were 0-4 at the Guardians Classic and the Cal Golden Bear Classic.
Easy Like Sunday Morning: The Bears hosted Oral Roberts on Sunday, Dec.11 and it was only the fifth Sunday game in the Craig Rasmuson Era at Northern Colorado; the sixth came on Jan. 1 at Northwestern. The Bears also opened the season on a Sunday this year (a 72-60 loss to Lipscomb). Last season UNC played on Dec. 19 at Montana State, marking the first time since Dec. 30, 2001 that they had played on a Sunday (that game was an 87-76 win at North Dakota State). UNC also played once on Sunday the year prior to that, falling 90-86 to Drury at the Las Vegas High Desert Classic.
Early Starts: The Oral Roberts game (Dec. 11), which started at Noon mountain time, was also the earliest during the Rasmuson Era at Northern Colorado. The earliest start had been a 12:30 p.m. local start time for the Oklahoma game last December.
Is It December Yet?: Northern Colorado will be glad when the calendar turns to December. The Bears are only 1-11 during the month of November over the past two years, including 0-6 this season. That is due in part to the fact they have faced very tough opposition including Syracuse, Bucknell, Iowa State, Colorado State and Wyoming among others.
Bears Play Wyoming For Only Third Time in 30 Years: Northern Colorado's game at Wyoming on Nov. 22 was the first time the teams had played since 1995 and only the third time the squads had faced each other on the hardwood since the 1976 season. Wyoming won the matchup 83-70, although the game was closer than the final score indicated. It was an improvement for the Bears, who had lost to the Pokes by a combined 92 points in the previous four meetings. UW has won 20 in a row against Northern Colorado.
Season Openers: After a 72-60 loss to Lipscomb, the Bears are now 5-7 overall in their last 12 season openers overall, 11 of which have come in road contests.
Largest Crowd To Sees Bears Play: The second largest crowd to ever see a Northern Colorado basketball team witnessed the Bears battle Lipscomb (Nov. 13). An announced crowd of 20,144 saw the contest, which was part of a doubleheader with Kentucky/South Dakota State at the Guardians Classic. That is the second largest mark, trailing only the 20,176 that officially saw the Bears battle Bucknell last season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (a doubleheader with Syracuse-Princeton). The next night (Nov. 14), the Bears matchup with South Dakota State had 19,369 in attendance, the third largest crowd to see a UNC basketball game.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm: Last year the Bears started the regular season with a November 11th game at Syracuse (Coaches vs. Cancer Classic). The start to a regular season was the earliest ever for Northern Colorado in its 104 years of basketball. This year's Nov. 13 start tied the second earliest opener in school history, also equaled on Nov. 13, 1998 when the Bears defeated Fort Lewis 85-50.
Close But No Cigar: Trailing South Dakota State (Nov. 14) by two points with three seconds left at the Guardians Classic, the Bears pushed the ball the length of the floor and junior Matt Kline got a 3-pointer off from 25 feet from the hoop on the right side, a shot that bounced off the rim after almost going in as time expired. The Bears have not had a buzzer-beating or near buzzer-beating shot winning basket since topping Texas A&M-International on Feb. 5, 2004. It in contest, Chris Gebhardt hit a runner in the lane with 3-seconds left to push the Bears to a 64-63 victory. Prior to that, it was Aaron Austin who hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds left on Feb. 9, 2002 as the Bears topped St. Cloud State 86-85.
Home Openers: Northern Colorado has dropped each of its last three home openers, falling 83-51 to Loyola Marymount last season, 78-76 to Colorado Mines (2003-04) and 70-57 to Colorado State this season. UNC last won its home opener on Nov. 26, 2002, topping Adams State 77-73. UNC is 6-5 overall in its home openers over the past 11 years.
Rams Play in Greeley For First Time Since 1956: When Colorado State played in Greeley on Nov. 18, it marked the first time since Dec. 1, 1956 that the Rams had played in Greeley. That game took place in old Gunter Hall across the UNC campus. CSU came out on top in the game 70-57, winning for the seventh straight time in the series. The two teams plan to begin playing annually in a home-and-home series.
Tongue Tied: You may notice one name on the Bears' roster is a little longer than the others. Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos earns the honor of having the longest last name (17 letters) in school history and probably the best name in all of Division I basketball. The Phoenix native of Greek ancestry pronounces his name Thanasi (TH-nah-see) Panagiotakopoulos (Pana-Yo-Toe-CO-PO-los). His real first name, however, is not Thanasi but Athanassios. Growing up his friends and teammates nicknamed him "T-Soup" or "Soup" - short for alphabet soup (since his name was so long). Last season, Thanasi got a treat on Dec. 9 at New Mexico when his grandfather (also named Athanassios) made the trip to see him play; Thanasi scored three points in that game. His grandfather and grandmother, who live in Greece, were in the United States for the holidays.
Bears Radio Network: This season you can hear every Northern Colorado basketball game on the Bears' Radio Network. Newstalk 1310 KFKA in Greeley is the flagship station and KFKA's Troy Coverdale will have the play-by-play call all season long with a pre-game show starting 30 minutes before tip-off. If you are outside the Greeley area you can access all the games online through UNCBears.com (see the Events section at the bottom of the main page) or directly log into http://www.1310kfka.com.
Northern Colorado Coaches Radio Show Now on Wednesday: Fans came now attend the Coors Light Northern Colorado Coaches Show each Wednesday afternoon at Noon at Old Chicago (2349 W. 29th St.). The event, which used to be on Monday's, is open to the public and the cost of lunch is only $7, as fans hear about the happenings of UNC Athletics from in-season coaches. KFKA's Troy Coverdale serves as host and the show airs on tape-delay on Newstalk 1310 KFKA at 7 p.m. that night.