GAME NOTES: After failing in the first installment of their current four-game road trip, the Northern Colorado Bears search for answers on Saturday at Reese Court, where the Eastern Washington Eagles will provide a Big Sky Conference test.
Northern Colorado visited Portland State on Thursday and was turned away in an 80-57 final, ending a three-game win streak. The Bears, who are 13-5 overall and a strong 7-2 in league play, have struggled away from home, with a mark of 2-5 in true road tests. They will also be the visitors against Idaho State and Weber State in their next two duels.
Eastern Washington has been slipping much more frequently, regardless of the venue. The Eagles' 73-61 home loss to North Dakota on Thursday was their fourth in the last five games. They are currently 8-12 overall and just 3-6 in league play, with road bouts against Montana State and Montana next on the schedule.
Last year, Northern Colorado split the season series with Eastern Washington, earning its seventh win in the last eight meetings and claiming a 9-6 lead in the all-time series.
Derrick Barden finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but he was the only player for North Dakota to find any real success against Portland State. The Bears only connected on 39.3 percent of their shots from the floor, including a paltry 2-of-15 from 3-point range.
Normally Northern Colorado is an extremely difficult team to slow down. The Bears are the best scoring team in the Big Sky (74.3 ppg), while ranking 10th in the country in field goal percentage (.492). They also do solid work on defense, limiting foes to 66.4 ppg on 44.5 percent shooting. Barden (13.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) may be the leading scorer on the roster, but he is joined in double figures by three of his teammates, with Tim Huskisson (11.9 ppg), Tate Unruh (11.8 ppg) and Tevin Svihovec (10.1 ppg) each helping the cause. However, Huskisson was the only other player in double figures on Thursday as he tallied 10 points.
Eastern Washington also struggled to get going offensively on Thursday night. The Eagles only connected on 37.7 percent of their shots from the floor. Making matters worse, they turned the ball over 16 times. Venky Jois scored 15 points as the lead scorer for the losing side.
On the season, Eastern Washington is 10th in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (.440), but it has still managed to be the second-highest scoring team in the conference (74 ppg). However, the Eagles have not been very effective defensively, allowing 76.2 ppg on 45.3 percent shooting. Tyler Harvey (20.3 ppg) powers the team, leading the conference in scoring. However, he was limited to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting in the loss to South Dakota. Jois (13.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg) anchors the team down low and Drew Brandon (10.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.2 apg) and Ognjen Miljkovic (10.2 ppg) are also reliable contributors.
Playing on the road has been a real stumbling block for Northern Colorado, which won't be able to shoot its way past Eastern Washington, which can score well itself, especially if Harvey returns to form.
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