2005-06 Final Northern Colorado Men's Basketball Weekly Release
March 21, 2006
THE BEAR FACTS
The University of Northern Colorado men's basketball team wrapped up its 2005-06 season with a 75-61 loss to Division I Independent rival Utah Valley State on Feb. 25. The Bears capped the season with a 5-24 overall record, despite the fact they won five of their last 10 games of the season.
Northern Colorado started the season off with a 0-14 mark, after facing some very tough competition, including California and Kansas. The Bears finally broke through with a 76-70 victory over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 30 and went on to top the likes of UC-Colorado Springs, Texas-Pan American, Colorado College and IPFW.
Sean Taibi, a first-team all-independent selection, finished as the team's leader in points (15.3), as he set the school's single-season record for 3-pointers made (84), surpassing the previous record of 75. Taibi also reached a first in school history, as he hit a 3-pointer in every game of the season, becoming the first Bear to ever accomplish that.
Kirk Archibeque, a second-team all-independent selection, finished the year by averaging 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, as he recorded eight double-doubles during the campaign. Matt Kline chipped in with 4.8 assists/game, a mark that was second among D-I Independent players.
Following the season, head coach Craig Rasmuson, who had completed his seventh season as head coach, stepped down as coach to take a position in the department as Director of Athletic Development.
NORTHERN COLORADO NOTES
Taibi and Archibeque Named to D-I All-Independent Team: Sean Taibi and Kirk Archibeque were named to the Division I All-Independent team at the end of the 2005-06 season. Taibi, who was an All-Newcomer selection last year, led Northern Colorado is scoring (15.3), a mark that was fifth among D-I Independent players. He led all independents in 3-pointers made (84), a mark that shattered the Northern Colorado single-season record, and ranked 22nd nationally. His 43.5 percent 3-point percentage was fifth among independent players and Taibi became the first person in school history to hit a 3-pointer in every team game of the season (29). He was excellent from the free throw line, leading all independent players with an 85.1 percentage. Taibi averaged 16.7 points per game in nine games against D-I Independent competition this season and scored a season and career-high 28 points against Utah Valley State. He had 27 points in a win over IPFW, in a game where he hit 7-of-9 from 3-point range. He scored in double figures in 24-of-29 games in 2005-06 and hit multiple 3-pointers in 22-of-29 contests. Archibeque, who was a first-team selection as a redshirt freshman last year, led Northern Colorado in rebounding for the second consecutive year (7.1), a mark that was fifth among independent players. He was second on the Bears team in scoring (12.9) and hit 52.5 percent of his field goal attempts, a mark that was fifth among independents. Archibeque averaged 13.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in nine games against independents, including matching his career-high of 30 in a game at Texas-Pan American, where he hit 12-Aof-13 shots from the field. After having four double-doubles last season, Archibeque doubled that total to eight this season. He scored in double figures in 21 of 29 games and had a stretch during the year when he had 20 or more points in three straight games, becoming the first Northern Colorado player to accomplish that feat in nearly three years.
Rasmuson Resigns: Northern Colorado head coach Craig Rasmuson announced the Feb. 27 that he was resigning as head coach after seven years on the bench to take a job in the Northern Colorado Department of Athletics as Director of Athletic Development. "It is just the right time to make this move," said Rasmuson. "Personally and professionally there are others things out there for me right now. It is hard to step away after 12 seasons as a college head coach but I am ready to start my next career, which will be in athletic administration." Rasmuson, who was the 16th coach in program history, took the reigns of the team beginning in the 1999-00 season when the program competed at the Division II level. He led the Bears to a 14-13 record in his third year with the team, marking only the second winning season for the program in a 13-year stretch. He also helped lead the program into the reclassification process to Division I, which began in 2003-04. In his seven years with the program he compiled a 63-129 record and was 129-195 in 12 years as a collegiate head coach. At Northern Colorado, he graduated 88 percent of his players who exhausted their eligibility. In his new role as Director of Athletic Development, Rasmuson will manage the Northern Colorado Athletic Fund, including annual gifts, the Bears courtesy car program, be in charge of all fundraising events and help initiate a student-athlete alumni group.
Taibi Sets School Single-Season 3-Point Mark: With a 3-pointer at the 8:24 mark of the first half vs. IPFW (Feb. 20), sophomore guard Sean Taibi set a new school single-season 3-pointers made record, topping the previous record of 75 held by Sean Nolen (2002-03). Taibi finished the year with has 84 3-pointers this year. He also had 193 attempts, the most 3-point attempts in season history, as he passed Derek Chaney's 180 attempts also vs. IPFW. Taibi was deadly from long range this season, hitting 84-of-193 (43.5%) from long range. Although he hit only 32% (15-fo-47) from the field from Jan. 14-30, he responded by hitting 4-of-5 against Colorado College (Feb. 4), and each of those barely even touched the net they were so on target. He matched his career-high by hitting 7-of-9 in the 79-61 victory over IPFW. In his last five games of the season, he is hit 21-of-37 (57.0%) from long range. He hit a 3-pointer in every game this season and hit four 3-pointers against each Lipscomb, Wyoming, Northern Arizona, Nebraska, Denver (twice), Utah Valley State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Colorado College, five 3-pointers at Loyola Marymount and seven three's vs. IPFW.
Taibi Hits a 3-Pointer in Every Game of the Season: Sean Taibi not only set a new single-season 3-pointers record, he did something no other player in Northern Colorado history had ever done ... hit a 3-pointer in every game of the season. Since the 3-point line was initiated, no UNC player had accomplished that, although some had come close. Taibi finished the year with 84 3-pointers, hitting multiple trifectas in 22 of 29 contests. The only teams he hit only one 3-pointer against were South Dakota State, Montana State, Oregon State, Northern Arizona, Northwestern, Denver and Texas-Pan American.
Taibi Named D-I Independent Player of the Week: Sean Taibi capped the regular season by being named the D-I Independent Player of the Week on Feb. 28. In the final week of the regular season, Taibi averaged 21.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists/game and hit 50% from the field, 58.8% from 3-point range and 87.5% from the free throw line. He scored 27 points against IPFW, a game he hit 7-of-9 from 3-point range and set the school's single-season record, and 16 points in the season finale against Utah Valley State.
Olson and Panagiotakopoulos Named to D-I Independent All-Academic Team: Senior Erik Olson and sophomore Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos were each named to the D-I Independent All-Academic team. Olson carries a 3.54 GPA in marketing while Panagiotakopoulos has a 3.94 GPA in business management. The selection marked the second straight year Olson appeared on the team.
A Program First For Olson: There is no doubt senior Eik Olson has been an all-around great player in his four-years at Northern Colorado. The senior is the first player in Northern Colorado history to have 850+ points (855), 550+ rebounds (573), 150+ assists (186) and 120+ steals (123) in his career as a Bear. Olson was been a key member for the Bears for the past four years. He played in 112 career games (5th most in school history - he played in his 100th career game on Jan. 9 vs. Colorado-Colorado Spring) and ranked sixth in career steals (123) and 10th in career rebounds (573), a mark he hit in the final game of his career.
Bears Build Steam As Season Nears End: Northern Colorado got better as the 2005-06 season went along. The Bears won three of their last six games and were 2-3 during the month of February. Take away the team's 0-14 start - which included several guarantee games (against the likes of Kansas and Cal) that the Bears had little chance of winning - and the Bears were 5-10 since Dec. 30.
700: With 13 points vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Jan. 28, sophomore Kirk Archibeque passed the 700 career point plateau; he finished his sophomore year with 785 career points. That point total is the second highest on the team (behind senior Erik Olson's 855 career points - Olson joined the 700-point club earlier this season). Archibeque is on pace to become the 14th member of the Bears 1,000-point club and if he stays on his current pace should end up in the top five in career scoring. Junior Matt Kline hit the 700-point plateau on Feb. 20 vs. IPFW, as finished his junior year with 705 career points. Sophomore Sean Taibi scored 16 points in the season finale vs. Utah Valley State (Feb. 25), and finished the year with exactly 700 career points.
Tough Opponents: Once again this season, the Bears played a very tough schedule. Northern Colorado played four teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament (Air Force, California, Kansas and Oral Roberts) and three squads that were selected to play in the NIT (Lipscomb, Nebraska and Northern Arizona).
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 had 15 or fewer turnovers in 11 of its last 14 games (after not having 15 or fewer miscues in any of the first 14 games of the season), including a season-low seven turnovers vs. Utah Valley State (Jan. 19) and Denver (Feb. 15).
Rebounding Efficiency: The Bears out-rebounded each of its last eight opponents of the season and 17 of its 29 total opponents this season.
Field Goal Defense Woes: In the Bears last seven losses (which have come in the last 11 total games), they have allowed seven of those opponents to shoot 50% or better from the field, including a season-high 59.6% by Denver (Feb. 15).
Home Sweet Home: Northern Colorado is 228-152 (.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 were 5-7 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.
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-of-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 averaged 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per games. Entering the season, he had only four career doubles - this season he had eight double-doubles. He ranked fifth among independent players in rebounds and scored in double figures in 18 of his last 24 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 but has bounced back with double-digit scoring games against each Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas-Pan American.
Lineups: In the search for the right combination of lineups this season, head coach Craig Rasmuson used 11 different starting lineups in 2005-06. All 12 active members on the team started at least one game this season. 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.
Kline Helps Out: Junior Matt Kline has established himself as the team's top assist man this season, averaging 4.8/game, second among D-I Independent players. To end the season he was on fire, handing out 6.0 assists/game in his last 16 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 6th in school history in career assists (283). Kline also recently reached the school's top-10 steals list, pushing his career total to 84 against Colorado College (Feb. 4); he now has 87 career steals.
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). He has scored in double figures in his last three games to end the year, including a career-high 14 points in the season finale vs. Utah Valley State. He posted his first double-double of the year vs. Texas-Pan American (Jan. 30), registering 12 points and 13 rebounds on his 22nd birthday. He matched his season-high in points with 13 against IPFW (Feb. 20). Birden averaged 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds/game in his 14 contests after Christmas break.
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.
Bears Win Big: The Jan. 30 game against Texas-Pan American was one to remember. The Bears topped the Broncs by 37 points, 86-49. The win was the largest over a Division I team since the Bears began the reclassification effort to Division I and largest over a D-I team since the NCAA started classifying teams in the 1970's.
Bears Win Big II: After beating Texas-Pan American by 37 points, the Bears followed that up with a 45-point victory (80-35) over Colorado College on Feb. 4. the win was the 10th largest margin of victory in school history and largest victory since topping Arizona Bible College by 51 points in the 1995-96 season.
Bears Play Pioneers Tough Twice: 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. In the rematch on Feb. 15, Denver led by 21 points in the second half before a 19-6 Bears run cut the lead to seven with five minutes to play. The Bears would get as close as five, which would be the final margin. The teams have now played 111 times, with DU holding a 71-40 advantage. The back-to-back games decided by six points or less in the series marked the first time that had happened since Dec. 15, 1986 and Jan. 27, 1987, when the Bears won each game by four points and then three points (a streak dating back 16 games).
Bears Defense Holds Broncs & Tigers to Record Low: Northern Colorado had struggled with its field goal defense until curing its woes against Texas-Pan American (Jan. 30). The Bears had allowed its opponents to shoot 50% or better from the field in nine of 13 halves until shutting down UTPA in the second half of their matchup. The Bears held the Broncs to 4-fo-24 (16.7%) shooting, the lowest half of shooting by a team in Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion history. Northern Colorado topped UTPA 86-49 in that game. The Bears followed that up by holding Colorado College to 25% (14-of-56) for their game on Feb. 4, the lowest percentage by any team ever in Butler-Hancock Hall (the previous low had been 26.8% by Concordia on Nov. 30, 1987). The Bears won that contest 80-35. The 35 points scored by CC in that contest was the fewest by a Northern Colorado opponent since Colorado Mines scored 28 on Feb. 16, 1949.
Holy Rebounds: Northern Colorado was a rebounding machine on Feb. 4 against Colorado College. The Bears netted 50 rebounds for the game while holding CC to only 15. The +35 rebounding margin set a new school record, topping the +25 margin against Great Falls on Dec. 2, 2000.
Back-to-Back Wins: The Bears back-to-back wins over Texas-Pan American and Colorado College marked the team's first back-to-back wins of the season and first time that accomplished that feat since topping CU-Colorado Springs and Colorado College in February 2005.
Marked Improvement: After losing by 43 points to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Texas on Jan. 16 but the Bears improved on that in losing by only six points to the same Islander team 12 days later in Greeley (Jan. 28). The Bears out-rebounded the Islanders (37-34), had fewer turnovers (11 vs. 16), hit more 3-pointers (6 to 5) and hit more free throws (22 to 21). But Texas A&M-Corpus Christi shot 51.1% from the field while the Bears managed only 32.8% from the field in the 72-66 loss.
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, to Kansas (Dec. 22) on ESPN Full Court and Denver (Feb. 15) on FSN-Rocky Mountain. 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 13 times and are 0-13 in those games.
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. A recent CollegeHoopsNet.com website ranking listed Thanasi as having the 39th best name in college basketball (a little low in the rankings probably). No. 1 on that list? It was Stetson's Chief Kickingstallionsims, who has two more letters in his last name than Panagiotakopoulos does.
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.