GAME NOTES: Northern Colorado's battle for the regular-season crown in the Big Sky Conference could come to an end tonight if Weber State is able to take down Northern Arizona in Ogden, but that shouldn't keep the Bears from focusing on their own battle against visiting Portland State at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
With still a week remaining in the regular season, the Bears find themselves tied for second place in the Big Sky with North Dakota at 10-7, so while the title might be out of their reach, there is still plenty for UNC to play for in over the next three games.
The Bears saw their perfect record at home come to an end two nights ago as the team suffered an 80-66 loss to Eastern Washington, the second straight defeat for the program.
As for the Vikings, they are currently in ninth place in the standings, but with several games remaining and as many as five teams with only nine wins ahead of them, there is potential for some major movement before the tournament tips off. However, two nights ago PSU did not help itself by losing to North Dakota on the road, 83-73. snapping a modest two-game win streak.
The all-time series favors PSU by a count of 14-5, with the Vikings winning six of the nine meetings played in Greeley over the years. The most recent encounter took place at the end of January with Portland State thrashing the Bears at home in an 80-57 final.
The Vikings were within striking distance for much of the game against North Dakota, but fell behind early and never recovered on Thursday night. Kyle Richardson carried much of the load as he scored 19 points, cleared 14 rebounds and also blocked five shots in the setback. Andre Winston accounted for 20 points, Gary Winston and Ton Douglas 12 apiece and DaShaun Wiggins 10 points off the bench before fouling out.
Although he has started only six games, Wiggins leads the program in scoring with 12.8 ppg, thanks mostly to his efforts at the free-throw line where he has made more shots (106) than all but one of his teammates has even yet to attempt. Tom Douglas (12.7 ppg) not only puts points on the board himself, he's also the one who is responsible for getting teammates involved in the action as well, to the tune of 88 assists.
UNC shot a decent 45.5 percent from the field in the first half against Eastern Washington, but the Bears were outscored behind the 3-point line in the period, 18-3, and were never able to recover from the 11-point deficit at the break. As it turned out, only Tate Unruh managed to finish in double figures for the Bears as he tallied 13 points, although there were four other players with at least eight points for the hosts.
Although he wasn't much of a factor against the Eagles, the contributions of Derrick Barden should not be overlooked as he leads the team in scoring with 13.6 ppg, based on an impressive 57.3 percent shooting from the floor, while accounting for 8.0 rpg as well. Unruh checks in with 12.0 ppg, connecting on 40.0 percent of his 3-point tries for a team that is hovering around 39 percent from long range at the moment.
You have to think the poor performance by the Bears at home on Thursday was little more than a fluke, so expect the hosts to bounce back in a big way tonight.
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