January 26, 2006

Men's Basketball to Host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas-Pan American

Jan. 26, 2006

Tx. A&M-Corpus Christi/Texas-Pan Am Game Notes in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader

University of Northern Colorado Bears (2-20)
vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi University Islanders (13-7)
Game #23 * Saturday, January 28, 2006 * 3:30 p.m. MT
Greeley, Colo. * Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (4,500)

University of Northern Colorado Bears
vs. University of Texas-Pan American Broncs (5-15)
Game #24 * Monday, January 30, 2006 * 7:00 p.m. MT
Greeley, Colo. * Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (4,500)

The Series: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi leads 3-0. Texas-Pan American leads 2-1.

The Coaches: Craig Rasmuson is 60-125 (.324) in his 7th season with Northern Colorado and 126-191 (.397) in his 12th year overall.

Ronnie Arrow is 101-83 (.549) in his 7th year at TAMUCC and 215-176 (.550) in his 14th year overall. Robert Davenport is 17-31 (.354) in his second year at UTPA.

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.

TV: none

Livestats: Gametracker live stats available through links at UNCBears.com.

GAME INFORMATION
After not having played since last Saturday, the University of Northern Colorado men's basketball returns home for the first of three in a row at Butler-Hancock, by hosting a pair of Texas Division I Independent schools this week. The Bears battle Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday (3:30 p.m. MT) and host Texas-Pan American on Monday night (7 p.m.). Both are rematches of games that happened earlier this month in Texas.

The game on Saturday is part of a doubleheader with the Northern Colorado women's team. The women challenge UC-Colorado Springs starting at 1 p.m. It is also Mascot Day, with a variety of mascots from around the region in attendance.

THE BEAR FACTS
The Bears lost their four in a row on Saturday night, falling to 0-4 this season against independent teams, in losing by six points at Utah Valley State. The six-point margin was the closest the Bears had been against UVSC in Orem in the past three years. Utah Valley has won 28 of their last 30 games at home.

This week's games give the Bears a chance to avenge a pair of losses two weeks back in Texas. The Bears were blown out by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Jan. 16, losing by 43 on the Islanders home court. Two days prior (Jan. 14), the Bears lost to Texas-Pan American by a 74-63 margin.

Both TAMUCC and UTPA are making return trips to Greeley, as both played here a season ago. The Bears were able to top Pan Am but lost to Corpus Christi at home in 2005.

The games are the first of three in a row at home; the Bears will play five of their final seven games at home this season and only have one road trip out of the state of Colorado for the remainder of the season.

OPPONENT INFORMATION

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: The Islanders are one of two D-I Independent teams (North Dakota State is the other) who has a winning record at this point of the season. Entering this week, the Islanders have won three games in a row and seven of their last nine games overall, but were tripped up at Utah Valley State on Thursday night, falling 69-64 at the McKay Center (a tough place to play and the place the Bears lost last Saturday night by six points). Since topping the Bears 99-56 on Jan. 16, the Islanders have played only IPFW, topping the Mastodons 77-71 at home, and Utah Valley State. A&M-Corpus Christi is 9-0 at home this season but just 2-7 in true road games. Chris Daniels leads the team with 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds/game.

Texas-Pan American: The Broncs had won three in a row (including the win over Northern Colorado in Edinburg) before falling 61-56 to IPFW at home on Jan. 21 and 84-54 at home to SMU on Wednesday night. They play at Utah Valley State on Saturday, their final game before taking on the Bears. Texas-Pan Am is 1-9 in road games this season. Dexter Shankle leads the team with an 11.0 points per game average; he is the only Bronc with a double figure scoring average.

Series History: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has won all three meetings in the series, including a 43-point victory earlier this season in Corpus Christi. The teams have played once before in Greeley, with the Islanders coming out on top 87-81 last season. Texas-Pan American took a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with a 74-63 victory over the Bears earlier this month. Northern Colorado is 1-0 all-time against the Broncs in Greeley, winning 84-70 last season, in what was the first-ever meeting between the teams.

THE BEAR NECCESSITIES
If you don't have time to read everything in this packet, these are the key notes about the Bears.
The Bears finished a 3-game road swing with a 6-point loss at Utah Valley State last Saturday; the Bears also lost to Texas-Pan American and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on the trip ... the pair of home games this weekend begin a 3-game homestand for the Bears; UNC will play five of its final seven games of the season at home ... sophomore Kirk Archibeque was named the Division I Independent Player of the Week on Jan. 18 after averaging 27.5 points and 7.3 rebounds/game in three contests; he struggled at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Utah Valley State (only two points) due to a bout with strep throad ... 15 of the Bears 21 different opponents this season have a .500 or better record as of Jan. 24 ... 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 58 3-pointers this season, the 11th highest total in Division I as on Jan. 24; he is currently on pace to break the school's single-season 3-pointers made record (75 by Sean Nolen) ... 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 15, and 30 of its last 31 and 40 of their last 42 true road games dating back three seasons; when you factor in neutral site games as well, the Bears have lost 36 of their last 37 games and 46 of 48 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 ... 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 seven total double-doubles this season ... this season Northern Colorado returns seven players from last year's squad including Division I Independent first-team selection Archibeque and All-Newcomer pick 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

Field Goal Defense: The Bears field goal defense has struggled recently. The team has allowed its opponents to hit 50% or better from the field in eight of its last 10 halves of basketball and to four of its last seven opponents overall (Northwestern, Denver, Texas-Pan American and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi). Overall, the Bears have allowed opponents to shoot 50% or better seven times this season, 45% or better 13 times and 40% or better 20 times in 2005-06.

Taibi Deadly From the Outside: Sophomore guard Sean Taibi has been deadly accurate from long range this season, hitting 58-of-137 (42.3%) from long range through 22 games. He has hit a 3-pointer in every game this season and hit four 3-pointers against each Lipscomb, Wyoming, Northern Arizona, Nebraska, Denver and Utah Valley State, and five 3-pointers at Loyola Marymount. He is currently on pace to hit 76 3-pointers this season, which would be one more the school record of 75 set by Sean Nolen in 2002-03. His 58 total 3-pointers currently ranks 18th nationally.

Tough Opponents: Of the Bears 21 opponents (who they've played 22 total times) so far this season, 15 of those teams have .500 or better records, including Air Force (17-3) and Kansas (12-6) who are each receiving votes in the top 25 polls. South Dakota State, Loyola Marymount (although they are 5-1 in the WCC), Eastern Michigan, Division II Colorado-Colorado Springs, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley State (who is now 9-11 overall) are the only teams the Bears have played this season that do not have a .500 or better mark as of Jan. 24.

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 five of its last eight games (after not having 15 or fewer miscues in the first 14 games of the season), including a season-low seven turnovvers vs. Utah Valley State (Jan. 19).

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.

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, 11-of-13 (84.6%) against each Denver and Texas-Pan American and 24-of-32(75%) against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. 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 66.1%, after being in the low 60's.

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 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds through 22 games. Entering the season, he had only four career doubles - this season he has seven double-doubles through 22 games. He ranks fourth among independent players in rebounds and has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 17 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 and matched his career-high with 30 points at Texas-Pan American (Jan. 14). He scored only two points at Utah Valley State after battling strep throat the week prior to the game.

Lineups: In the search for the right combination of lineups this season, head coach Craig Rasmuson has used 10 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 104 career games (10th most in school history) and if he plays in the final seven 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 sixth in career steals (114) and should also finish his career in the top-10 in rebounding, as he currently has 542 rebounds, 31 caroms out of 10th place (he needs 4.4/game the rest of the year to make the top-10).

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 6.6 assists/game in his last nine 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 eighth in school history in career assists (244), seven 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 8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds/game in his seven contests since the break.

Division I Independent Leaders: Several Bears rank high in the D-I Independent "conference" statistical leaders as of Jan. 24. Sean Taibi's 58 made 3-pointers is first among independent players. Matt Kline's 4.5 assists/game in second and Kirk Archibeque's 7.3 rebounds/game is fourth. As a team, UNC ranks fourth in field goal and 3-point shooting and fifth in rebounding.

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.

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 then 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.

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.

SEASON NOTES

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.

Taibi Named UNC Male Student Athlete of the Month for December: Sophomore guard Sean Taibi was named Northern Colorado's Male Student-Athlete of the Month for December. In nine games during the month, Taibi averaged 13.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals/game while hitting 46.8 percent from the field, 43.1 percent from 3-point range and 82.4 percent from the free throw line. Taibi was 22-of-51 from long range, including hitting 5-of-10 at Loyola Marymount when he scored a then season-high 21 points. He matched that season-high on Dec. 30, playing a career-high 38 minutes in helping the Bears their first victory of the season, 76-70 over Eastern Michigan. Taibi also scored 20 points against Oral Roberts and 18 against future Big Sky Conference rival Northern Arizona.

Archibeque Named D-I Independent Player of the Week: Sophomore Kirk Archibeque was named Division I Independent Player of the Week on Jan. 18. He averaged 25.7 points and 7.3 rebounds/game in three games the previous week, while also hitting 78% (32-of-41) from the field and 76.5% (13-of-17) from the free throw line as the Bears defeated UC-Colorado Springs, lost to in-state rival Denver and lost at fellow Division I Independent rival Texas-Pan American. Archibeque scored 20-plus point in each game, marking the first time in his career he had 20 or more points in three consecutive games (and first time a UNC player had done that since Sean Nolen did it in six consecutive games in the 2002-03 season). He scored 20 points and had 12 rebounds (7 offensive) in hitting 8-of-10 shots against UCCS. Against Denver's All-American candidate Yemi Nicholson, Archibeque hit 12-of-18 shots, scored 27 points, had four rebounds, a block and steal as the Bears lost by six points (after losing to the same team by 19 a year ago). He finished up the week by equaling his career-high with 30 points at UTPA, hitting 12-of-13 shots (including 7-of-7 in the second half and 12 in a row to end the game), while also grabbing six rebounds. Archibeque earned the award twice last season, doing so in back-to-back weeks (Jan. 11 & 18).

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.

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.

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.

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.