MENâ€™S BASKETBALL FALLS IN SEASON FINALE AT NORTHERN COLORADO
GREELEY, Colo. -- Northern Colorado senior Devon Beitzel scored a game-high 32 points to lead the Bears to an 84-54 victory over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference men’s basketball game Wednesday evening at the Butler-Hancock Pavilion. The win for Northern Colorado clinched the program’s first Big Sky regular-season championship.
The Hornets’ season comes to a close as the team finished 7-21 overall and 4-12 in the Big Sky. The Hornets, who were eliminated from Big Sky Tournament contention in Saturday’s 73-70 loss to Weber State, went 4-4 during the second half of league play. The top six teams in the nine-member conference reach the league’s postseason event which begins with the quarterfinal round this Saturday.
With the victory, Northern Colorado clinched the Big Sky’s regular season championship outright and will host the Big Sky Tournament semifinal and championship rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, respectively. The Bears (19-10, 13-3) completed their season with a perfect 12-0 record at home, and won 11 of those 12 contests by double figures.
The Big Sky Tournament field is now set with No. 6 seed Eastern Washington taking on No. 3 Weber State in Ogden in one quarterfinal matchup, while No. 5 Montana State travels to No. 4 Northern Arizona in the other quarterfinal. No. 2 seed Montana will take on the highest remaining seed on Tuesday, while No. 1 Northern Colorado will face the lowest remaining seed in the other semifinal later that evening.
In tonight’s game, Beitzel, who will likely earn Big Sky MVP honors when the league’s individual awards are announced later this week, nearly single-handedly beat the Hornets. He was the only Northern Colorado player in double figures while shooting 11-of-19 from the field, 4-of-11 from the three-point line and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Beitzel scored 15 points in the first half and 17 more in the second half.
Beitzel scored Northern Colorado’s first eight points of the game, and his three-pointer at the 18:12 mark of the first half gave the Bears a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way. A tip-in from junior Walter Jackson gave Sacramento State an early 2-0 lead, before Beitzel scored eight straight to put the Bears up, 8-2. The Hornets never really challenged again as Northern Colorado led by double figures the final 21:50 of the contest, opening up a lead as large as 35 points in the second half.
The loss was Sacramento State’s most lopsided defeat in conference play this season. While Sacramento State struggled from the field, converting on just 32.8 percent (21-64) of its field goal attempts, Northern Colorado was proficient from the floor all night. The Bears shot 46.2 percent (30-65) from the field and 44.0 percent (11-25) from the three-point line. Northern Colorado outscored Sacramento State in fast break points (20-0), points off turnovers (24-11) and points in the paint (38-24).
The loss overshadowed impressive rebounding nights for Hornet juniors Alpha N'Diaye and Jackson. Both finished with career highs in rebounds as N’Diaye finished with eight points and a game-high 15 rebounds while Jackson had eight points and 12 rebounds. The 15 rebounds for N’Diaye are tied for the sixth best mark in Sacramento State’s Div. I single-game history (1991-pres.). The pair combined for 27 of the Hornets’ 39 rebounds, and nine of the team’s 14 pulls on the offensive glass.
Sacramento State was led in scoring by freshman Jackson Carbajal, who matched his season high with 17 points. The shooting guard went 7-of-13 from the field and 3-of-7 from distance. He was the only Hornet in double figures as N’Diaye, Jackson and senior Duro Bjegovic finished with eight points. Sophomore John Dickson added six points.
Although Beitzel was the only Bear in double figures, four other Northern Colorado players had at least eight points, comprised of Mike Proctor (nine points, five rebounds), Tate Unruh (nine points, five rebounds), Elliott Lloyd (nine points, eight assists) and Chris Kaba (eight points).
• Sacramento State’s four conference wins marks the third straight season the team has increased its league win total. That includes two overtime losses, and four more losses that were decided by six points or less.
• Sacramento State finished the season with a positive rebounding margin (993-969), snapping a streak of 23 consecutive years the team had finished with less rebounds than the opposition.
• The Hornets allowed 69.6 points per game, which is the lowest output since the 1985-86 squad allowed the same amount (a span of 25 years).
• Sophomore John Dickson scored 305 points this year and now has 596 through his first two years in the program. That is the third highest total for any Hornet player through his sophomore season since the team joined the Div. I ranks in 1991-92. He trails only Loren Leath (685) and Michael Boyd (603).
• After losing all eight of its meetings when facing a Big Sky opponent for the first time this season, the team went 4-4 when playing a league foe for the second time.
• The Hornets’ six home victories are the most since the 2006-07 season.
• Seniors Sultan Toles-Bey and Bjegovic are both on pace to graduate this summer. Excluding Toles-Bey and Bjegovic, of the 10 Hornets that have expired their eligibility under Katz, nine have graduated, and the other (Domineek Daniel) is on pace to graduate in May.
• With six more three-pointers tonight, the Hornets have converted at least one three-pointer in 491 straight games, a streak which dates back to Nov. 28, 1993.