Saturday, February 28, 2015

Northern Colorado Beats Northern Arizona In Thriller

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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  1. Nice analysis Jon. As a Lumberjack that game was just plain painful. I hate to come off as a sore loser because the truth is the Jacks got what they deserved for the most part for playing yet another game close when I personally believe they have the weapons that should allow them to blow their opponent out of the water. NAU looked tired to me or uninspired - maybe they know that they are pretty much a lock for a 4 seed. They did not block out like they have most of the last 10 games and the lax play allowed UNC to break even on the boards. To me, that was the addition to lots of turnovers by the Jacks. The Jacks held the largest leads of the game at certain points, because I do believe they are much better than that team. But, on the road in the Big Sky you are not going to get calls and if it comes down to the wire you really set yourself up for disappointment. After watching it in slow mo more than once the 50/50 call you mention probably should have been a no call and it basically sealed the game for UNC. As much as Yanku is my hero, he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and that killed the Jacks as well. I really think the Jacks earned that loss more so than UNC earned the victory. Svihovec irritates me the same way Danny Ainge used to irritate opponents when he got a hot hand. The dude couldn't miss. UNC also has two very very quick guards which make for some tough match ups. Glad you got to see Yanku in person. He gets better and better in each to watch his passing and his court positioning. He's like a chess player out there playing hoops. If he stays healthy, improves his finishing around the basket, and becomes more comfortable shooting the long ball, I think he will be the Big Sky POY before he graduates. If you look at NAU's team going into next year it is clear that Yanku will have an opportunity to be the centerpiece...he will have Kaluna and Martin down low and 5 pretty darn good freshmen coming in. I think Yanku will break the conference double double record before he is done. I can see him averaging 8 assists and scoring about 18 avg per game next year and probably hauling in 6 rebounds a game avg. He is going to break a lot of NAU records. #1JacksFan

  2. Yanku ahead of Senglin ...maybe? but needs to shoot better from field

  3. Good write up on the UNC-NAU game, Jon. I'm kinda jealous as I've still only seen Big Sky conference games in three venues (NAU, UM and MSU). NAU better hope to hell that they somehow dodge UNC in the opening round of the conference tournament. 9 straight losses in Greeley. 6-3 record in Flagstaff. By my math that's 6-12 over the last 9 years. Nope....avoid the Bears at all costs. -MTJack

  4. Looking forward to driving up for the game on Saturday vs. Sacramento State. Are you attending senior day, #1JacksFan?

  5. You got that right MTJack...avoid the Bears at all costs! They have our number for sure. I won't make Senior Day unfortunately. One of my offices is in Atlanta and that's where I have to be through to Sunday. I am glad to say I will be in attendance for the Pac12, Mountain West, WAC Tourneys and the championship game of the WCC. Going to be in hoops heaven next week. I might even fly up to Sacramento (assuming Sac beats SUU and/or NAU) and catch the Jacks there if I can fit it in on a quick trip from Vegas. #1JacksFan

    1. My folks are going to the WCC tourney as well. A few of my family members are Gonzaga and Santa Clara alums. You definitely picked a good week to be in Las Vegas. I hope I'm right but I predict NAU wins out and Sacramento State beats SUU on Thursday to clinch the conference and they ease up (play more backups) on Saturday as that game won't truly matter. I have to somehow hope that UNC loses their game and the standings change....if the Jacks get knocked out of the BSC tourney I'd prefer it was someone else this year. Four teams (Sac State, EWU, UM and NAU) have a good chance of winning this. Two other teams (PSU and UNC) can conceivably get hot, get an upset or two and win it as well. Things are wide open. -MTJack

    2. I'd add Idaho to that second list as well... they have beaten Sac State and Montana this year, and nearly beat EWU twice... they can lose to anyone, but on their good days, they can definitely beat anyone!

      Also, I'm extremely jealous #1JacksFan of all those conference tournies you get to go to... that sounds amazing!