I was flying solo on my third trip of the 2011-12 season to Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion. I can't blame my two usual companions for missing this game, considering the opponent, Johnson & Wales, and the result of Northern Colorado's last game, a humiliating Black Line Upset at the hands of NAIA's Westminster, 73-60.
The Wildcats of Johnson & Wales, a culinary arts school out of Denver, were the second consecutive NAIA foe for the Bears. However, unlike Westminster, JWU was no stranger to Butler-Hancock; this would be their fifth trip to Greeley since 2007. In fact, JWU inspired one of the best student section chants I've ever heard at UNC, the "Make me a sandwich" chant that arose during UNC's win over the Wildcats in 2009.
After the debacle against Westminster, Northern Colorado head coach B.J. Hill decided to shake up his lineup, giving sophomore Xzavier James and freshmen Tevin Svihovec and Bryce Douvier their first career starts.
Taking my seat near mid-court, I had two tasks throughout the game: updating the Northern Colorado athletics Twitter feed (@unc_bears), and answering the courtside phone to update various websites on the score of the game.
It was while performing this second task that I met a new friend, "Bill from STATS, Inc." The man must have called for an update something like 15 times and, without fail, introduced himself every single time. By the end of the game, I wanted to ask how his kids were. (Seriously, the group of us at the scorer's table had a good laugh at the whole thing.)
As for the game, there wasn't much of one. The Bears restored order and whipped up on their NAIA foe like a quality Division I team should. They held a double-digit lead for the final 33:28 en route to a 98-66 win.
Early in the first half, JWU guard Cody Derner, all 6-foot-1 of him, tried to guard UNC center Emmanuel Addo, who stands a stout 6-foot-8. Despite a gallant effort from Derner, Addo scored nine points in less than three minutes before Wildcats coach Jeff Culver tried something new.
Addo led the Bears in scoring with 17 points while also pulling down ten rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He was one of six Bears to score in double figures and one of two with a double-double; Douvier had ten points and ten boards for his first career double-double, despite only playing 17 minutes.
The Bears could have put triple digits on the scoreboard had Hill not instructed his team not to shoot on its final possession. Nonetheless, Northern Colorado improved to 3-5, entering one of its most pivotal stretches of the season: a streak of ten days without a game. During a similar stretch of time without game action over Christmas last season, a team that went 4-7 in non-conference play was able to gel in practice and become the team that would eventually win a Big Sky championship.
Here's hoping for similar progress from this year's squad.
at NORTHERN COLORADO 98, JOHNSON AND WALES 66 12/03/2011
NORTHERN COLORADO 3-5 (0-0) -- E. Lloyd 3-7 1-2 8; T. Unruh 4-10 3-4 12; C. Osborne 2-7 2-3 6; E. Addo 7-9 3-3 17; P. Garnica 4-6 0-0 12; T. Svihovec 3-6 5-5 11; T. Huskisson 5-10 4-6 15; B. Douvier 3-6 4-4 10; X. James 0-1 1-2 1; A. Hawk-Harris 2-3 1-2 6. Totals 33-65 24-31 98.
Three-point goals: - , NOCO 8-21 (E. Lloyd 1-3; T. Unruh 1-6; X. James 0-1; P. Garnica 4-6; T. Svihovec 0-1; A. Hawk-Harris 1-2; T. Huskisson 1-2); Rebounds: , NOCO 38 (E. Addo 10); Assists: , NOCO 20 (P. Garnica 8); Total Fouls -- , NOCO 20; Fouled Out: -; NOCO-None.