I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the battle between Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona in Greeley on Saturday, as the Bears got the 76-74 win to essentially knock the Lumberjacks out of a chance for the Big Sky title.
It was a back and forth game that saw 13 lead changes, with the largest lead being just seven points. It came down to the end of the game, as NAU clung to a 73-72 lead when Tevin Svihovec drove to the paint, and a 50/50 call resulted in Jordyn Martin being called for the blocking foul. Svihovec made both free throws with just 6.9 seconds left. After an NAU turnover, Tim Huskisson made a pair of FTs, which gave UNC the 76-73 lead.
Of course, there was more wackiness to come... Ako Kaluna got the ball for the Jacks, and he was fouled trying to throw up a heave from halfcourt, giving him three freebies. However, he missed the first, and NAU couldn't corral his intentional miss on the third free throw, giving the Bears the win.
Northern Colorado was led by strong play from the seniors. Tevin Svihovec finished with 20 points, and he bookened things for UNC. He started with 7 of their first 9 points, and then he got a lot of big buckets down the stretch. The other star was Tim Huskisson, who finished with 18 points (12 in the second half) and 7 rebounds. He had several buckets down the stretch, where he was able to use his quickness to get to the basket.
After the game, Coach Murphy said the key was the rebounding, as UNC was able to consistently get second chances. They had 14 offensive boards (in fairness, so did NAU), including four from Huskisson. The other key for their win was that they took good care of the ball - five turnovers in the game, with none in the second half.
For the Jacks, Kris Yanku was his usual excellent self. He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. UNC coach BJ Hill said they had a bit of trouble with his size, as he was able to get into the paint almost at will at times. He plays with such great pace, and an understanding of angles. He's also got, for my money, the best vision in the conference. I think he's going to the best conference POY by in his senior year.
NAU falls to 11-5 in the Big Sky, and their most likely landing spot is fourth. UNC moves to 9-8, and if they win their finale against North Dakota, they have a good chance of finishing fifth. That could set up a rematch between these two teams in the Big Sky tournament (which would also be a rematch of last year's tournament opener). As fans, we'd be pretty lucky to see another battle between these two teams, because it sure was a fun game tonight.
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