Another Big Sky conference game in Greeley, another runaway win for Northern Colorado. While Northern Arizona kept battling all game, eventually the end result was another double digit home victory for the Bears, as they improved to 6-1 in the Big Sky with an 87-72 win.
The Bears were downright unstoppable in this game. They shot 11/16 from downtown, 59% overall, and still found the time to grab eight offensive rebounds. It was a group effort, as four guys were in double figures, and ten guys scored for UNC. NAU tried to play man to man, zone, and bring pressure, but Northern Colorado could not be stopped. In the first half, the Bears were drawing up some beautiful plays to get open looks for Tate Unruh, and he responded with five first-half treys.
In the second half, Tim Huskisson played very well (more on him in the near future - he is the most improved player in the conference), Tevin Svihovec had some nice buckets, and they got solid minutes from Corey Spence. In short, it was a game where Derrick Barden did not go off, and they didn't need him to in order to beat a solid team. That's a great sign for the Bears.
One thing that sticks out to me about Northern Colorado is this - right now, what separates them from the rest of the conference is that when guys like Svihovec and Dominique Lee come into the game, there is no drop-off. These guys could be starting for most of the teams in the Big Sky, and having them off the bench is a luxury that nobody else in the conference has right now.
For Northern Arizona, there was good and bad to take away from the game. They really struggled to get into their offense against the 2-2-1 pressure of Northern Colorado, and they will likely see more pressure from North Dakota on Saturday. Another struggle was getting Max Jacobsen the ball in scoring position. He just was not able to get deep enough from his post-ups. They are at their best when he is getting opportunities, but they just weren't there in this game.
The obvious bright spot is Quinton Upshur, who kept them in this game. He was sensational offensively, hitting 7 of 8 threes (his only miss was a shot he threw up as the shot clock wound down), and did a great job finishing at the hoop in transition. He finished with 32 points and looked downright explosive.
The other bright spot to me was Kris Yanku, and I thought that even before he went on a scoring tear in the second half (he finished with 20 points). As Jack Murphy told me after the game, he is not scared of anything out on the court. Against constant UNC pressure (guys like Jordan Wilson and Corey Spence make things miserable for opposing ballhandlers), Yanku was very poised, and almost always seemed to make good decisions. While everyone else for the Lumberjacks looked tentative trying to advance the ball against the Bears zone, Yanku was constantly attacking. He has a bright future, and a bright present.
Northern Colorado is now tied with Weber State at 6-1 as they prepare to host Sacramento State, while Northern Arizona falls to 5-2, as they visit North Dakota on Saturday.
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