January 16, 2008

Men's Basketball Heads To Eastern Washington And Portland State

Jan. 16, 2008

Weekly Release: at Eastern Washington; at Portland State Get Acrobat Reader

Games #17-18

Northern Colorado (8-8, 2-2 Big Sky) at Eastern Washington (7-12, 2-3 Big Sky)

Thursday, Jan. 17 • Cheney, Wash. • Reese Court (6,000) • 7:05 p.m.

Northern Colorado at Portland State (10-8, 3-2 Big Sky)

Saturday, Jan. 19 • Portland, Ore. • Peter W. Stott Center (1,500) • 2:05 p.m.

The Series.......................... EWU................. PSU

   Overall Record.................. 0-3................... 0-6

   In Greeley......................... 0-2................... 0-3

   At Opponent...................... 0-1................... 0-3

   At Neutral Sites.................. 0-0................... 0-0

   Last Meeting................... 2006-07............ 2006-07

   Boyle vs........................... 0-2................... 0-2

The Coaches

   Northern Colorado......... Tad Boyle (12-32, 2nd year)

   Eastern Washington. Kirk Earlywine (7-12, 1st year*)

   Portland State............... Ken Bone (41-37, 3rd year*)

   .................................................. *at current school

Radio

   KFKA 1310 AM......... Troy Coverdale, play-by-play

Audio Streaming

   KFKA............................................. 1310kfka.com

Television

   None

Video Streaming

   Big Sky............................................. bigskytv.org

Live Stats

   Eastern Washington............................. goeags.com

                Portland State             goviks.com

Hitting The Trail

Northern Colorado returns to Big Sky Conference play this week with two games on the road. The Bears play at Eastern Washington on Thursday before traveling to Portland for the second time this year, this time for a tilt against Portland State on Saturday at 2:05.

Series History

This will the fourth meeting between the Eagles and Bears with Eastern Washington holding the 3-0 advantage. The Bears are also searching for their first win the series against Portland State as they trail 5-0 in the meetings. The two teams faced each other every year from 1974-75 through 1977-78 and did not renew their acquaintance until last season when NC joined the Big Sky. Last year the Bears dropped a 91-79 decision in Cheney and fell 86-71 in Portland.

Double Your Fun

The win against San Diego State was the second this year against a team from the Mountain West Conference (Colorado State), and doubled the Bears win total from a year ago. The eight wins also ties for the most wins since becoming a member of Division I  in 2003-04. In 2004-05 the Bears were 8-21.

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another

Freshman guard Devon Beitzel became the first-ever men's basketball player to be named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week, sharing the honors with Kyle Landry of Northern Arizona after the Bears' victory at San Diego State. Beitzel notched a career-high in scoring with 15 points and steals with four. He shot 7-of-12 from the field with one three-pointer and two rebounds in the 62-56 win.

San Diego State Recap

For the first time in 12 tries, Northern Colorado won a road game, upsetting San Diego State 62-56. Redshirt freshman guard Devon Beitzel posted a huge career-high with 15 points to lead the team in scoring. His previous high of 10 also came against a Mountain West team, as he did so against Colorado State on Dec. 1. Sophomore forward Jefferson Mason added 14 points, while freshman forward Taylor Montgomery was one point shy of his career-high with 13. Both Montgomery and junior forward Jabril Banks led the team with eight rebounds, while Montgomery also led with a career-high four assists and Beitzel had a career-high four steals.

It's Been A While

The win at San Diego State snapped an 11-game road losing streak for Northern Colorado. The last road win came at Sacramento State on Jan. 31, 2007, though the Bears do have a neutral site win this season in the opener against VMI. The win also snapped San Diego State's 13-game home winning streak which was tied for the 11th-longest active streak in the nation.

Block Party

After having just one blocked shot in a three-game stretch against Sacramento State, Northern Arizona and Idaho State, the Bears have tallied five blocks in the last two games. Sophomore forward Jefferson Mason and freshman forward Taylor Montgomery each have a pair of blocks, while freshman forward Neal Kingman has one. Mason leads the team with 10 blocks this year, while junior forward Jabril Banks is second with eight.

Who Are You Going To Guard?

In the last six games, Northern Colorado has had five different players lead the team in scoring, with only junior forward Jabril Banks doing so twice. Seven players this season have led the team at least once in the points column, with Banks leading eight times and senior guard Sean Taibi doing so three times.

It's A Whole New Year

The nice thing about one season to the next is you get to wipe the slate clean and start again. That's what Northern Colorado has done. The Bears went 4-24 last season and have already doubled their win total, going 8-8 this season. Only Arizona State has tallied a better turnaround from last year to this year as the Sun Devils went 8-22 in 2006-07 and are 13-2 in 2007-08.

One And Done

Northern Colorado has done a great job this season of not giving the opposition a second chance to score. In fact, in the last five games no opponent has scored more than nine second chance points and six times this year the Bears have held a team to five or fewer second chance scores. This year, Northern Colorado opponents are averaging 7.9 second chance points per game, while the Bears are averaging 10.6 a contest.

Prince Of Thieves

In four different games this season, a Bear has recorded at least four steals in a game including a season-high seven by Robert Palacios. Last year, the Bears had only one player, Jefferson Mason against Montana, tally four or more steals in a contest.

Double Your Fun

Of the 12 players who have seen action on the court this season, nine of them have scored at least 10 points in a game. The Bears have eight players on the team who are averaging between 5-14 points per game, led by junior forward Jabril Banks with 13.7 a contest.

Carom Catchers

The win against San Diego State marked the sixth time this year the Bears have had a double-figure rebounding advantage in a game. The Bears out-rebounded the Aztecs by 16, the second-largest margin of the season. Northern Colorado is averaging 35.6 rebounds per game, compared with 31.1 for the opposition for a +4.6 rebounding margin, which ranks third in the Big Sky statistics.

One, Three, 10 Go

Senior guard Sean Taibi currently ranks ninth in career scoring at Northern Colorado with 1,225 points and needs just one to tie for eighth place, three for seventh and 10 for sixth place (6. Henry Clausen, 1966-69, 1,235; 7. Lovell Hocks, 1971-75, 1,228; 8. Sean Nolen, 2000-05, 1,226). Taibi has missed the last two games due to lingering soreness in his knee from an earlier injury.

Banks To The Boards

Junior forward Jabril Banks has either led or shared the lead in rebounding in each of the four Big Sky Conference games. Banks is averaging 7.8 rebounds per game in league play, which ranks sixth in the league statistics. Overall this year, Banks is averaging 6.2 caroms per game to rank seventh in the Big Sky.

Getting To The Line

For the second time since joining the Big Sky Conference, the Bears made 20 or more free throws in back-to-back contests. Northern Colorado made 23-31 against Idaho State and sunk 20-27 against Weber State. Last year, the Bears made 22-25 against Eastern Washington on 1/4 and 20-27 against Portland State on 1/6.

A Little Of This, Little of That

Junior guard Robert Palacios has done a little of everything for the Bears this season. He averages 5.9 points per game for sixth on the team, but ranks second in rebounds (5.2), second in assists (2.1), leads the team in steals (1.6) and is second in field goal percentage (.434). The transfer from Indian Hills Community College ranks among the conference leaders in rebounds (11th), steals (2nd), offensive rebounds (10th) and defensive rebounds (15th).

Starting Off

Head coach Tad Boyle has now used six different starting lineups this season. The three constants in the five on the floor at tip have been junior forward Jabril Banks, junior guard Robert Palacios and senior guard Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos. Sophomore forward Jefferson Mason (11), freshman forward Taylor Montgomery (10), senior guard Sean Taibi (5), freshman forward Neal Kingman (3), freshman guard Devon Beitzel (2), and senior center Kirk Archibeque (1) have all also been in the starting lineup this season.

Crashing The Boards

Northern Colorado out-rebounded Sacramento State by 20 (43-23), giving the Bears their largest margin of the year. NC is averaging 35.6 rebounds per game, while opponents are getting 31.1 per game for the third largest margin in the Big Sky (+4.5).

Making The Ones That Count

Against Sacramento State, the Bears made 15-of-16 from the free throw line, posting a season-best .938 percentage. It is the best free throw percentage in a game since the Bears played at South Dakota State on Jan. 20, 2001 and also hit .938 (15-of-16).

Milestones

Senior guard Terry Anderson needs 23 points for the 100th of his career and after tallying four steals against Idaho State, he needs just two more for 30. Junior forward Jabril Banks next rebound will be his 100th, while sophomore guard Will Figures is six points shy of 250. Sophomore forward Jefferson Mason is now just two points shy of 300, while junior guard Robert Palacios needs five points and 17 rebounds for 100 in each category and freshman Taylor Montgomery is 12 points shy of 100. Senior guard Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos is also just four rebounds shy of 100 and his next three-pointer will his 50th. Senior guard Sean Taibi needs 11 assists for the 150th of his career.

Lucky Sevens

Twice this season, junior forward Jabril Banks has been perfect from the field when taking seven shots. In the season opener against VMI Banks posted an unblemished night, hitting all seven attempts from the field. He then repeated that performance at Denver. He has also made seven shots from the floor three other times (Denver, Colorado State, Bowling Green State). Banks is shooting .631 from the floor (70-111) and has shot under 50 percent in just one contest this year.

Leading The Way - As A Team

In the latest Big Sky Conference statistics, Northern Colorado ranks second in field goal percentage defense (.433), steals (7.44) and offensive rebounds (12.13) and third in scoring defense (65.9), rebounding offense (35.6), rebounding defense (31.1), rebounding margin (+4.6) and defensive rebounds (23.50). In conference tilts, the Bears are second in rebounding margin (+3.5) third in three-point field goal percentage (.390), rebounding defense (30.3), offensive rebounds (10.25) and steals (7.50).

Leading The Way - Individually

In the Big Sky individual statistics, junior forward Jabril Banks leads the league in field goal percentage (.613), is fifth in scoring (13.7), seventh in rebounding (6.2), fifth in free throw percentage (.791) and seventh in defensive rebounds (4.25). Junior guard Robert Palacios ranks second in steals (1.67), senior guard Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos ranks 10th in assists (2.50) and sixth in steals (1.31), while sophomore guard Will Figures leads the conference in three-point field goal percentage (.529). In conference games only, Banks and senior guard Sean Taibi are tied for fourth in scoring (15.0), while Banks is also sixth in rebounding (7.8), Panagiotakopoulos is third in steals (1.50), Taibi is fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.556) and second in three-pointers made (3.33).

It's An Honor

Following the action on the court during the Air Force Classic, Northern Colorado had a pair players named to the All-Tournament Team in guards sophomore Will Figures and senior Sean Taibi. Figures averaged 19.5 point per game in the tournament while Taibi chipped in 16 points per game.

Postseason Eligible

The Northern Colorado men's basketball team is now eligible to compete in postseason play in 2007 after successfully making the transition to Division I. This year also marks the first year NC is eligible to win the Big Sky Conference Championship as well as compete in the Big Sky Tournament.

Picked Seventh/Eighth

Northern Colorado was chosen seventh by the coaches and eighth by the media in the Big Sky's Preseason Poll. The Bears received 19 points in the coaches poll and 56 in the media poll. The polls were also split with Weber State taking the coaches poll and Montana being chosen as the favorite by the media.

Home Sweet Home

Northern Colorado is 236-162 (.593) all-time at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion, which opened Feb. 4, 1975. Last season, the Bears posted a 3-9 record at home and this season have started 6-1 this season. The contest against Montana State on January 24 will be the 400th men's basketball game in the arena.

Scouting Eastern Washington

The Eagles are currently 7-12 on the season and 2-3 in Big Sky Conference action after dropping games to Idaho State (58-56) and Weber State (74-64) last week. Eastern Washington has lost four of its last five games and two of three at home.

Kellen Williams leads the Eagles in both scoring and rebounding with averages of 12.9 and 8.6, respectively. He is also shooting a team-best .505 from the field and is one of five Eagles with 20 or more three-pointers on the year. The senior forward is also tied for the team lead with 22 steals. Adris DeLeon leads the club with 59 assists, while Brandon Moore has a team most 16 blocks.

Eastern Washington ranks second in the Big Sky Conference statistics in free throw percentage (.728) and three-point field goals made (8.05).

Scouting Portland State

Portland State sports a record of 10-8 overall and is 3-2 in Big Sky play, winning three of its last four games. The Bears are the Vikings only game of the week and head coach Ken Bone is looking for his 300th career win with a victory over NC.

Deonte Huff leads Portland State with 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while Jeremiah Dominguez has a team-best 66 assists and 33 steals and Scott Morrison leads the team with 19 blocked shots and is shooting a team-best .596 from the field. The Vikings like to shoot the long ball as eight different players have made more than 10 this year, led by Dominguez with 38.

Portland State leads the Big Sky Conference in three-point field goals made with 8.78 and is second in assists (15.56) and turnover margin (+0.72).