“This gives us a sense of ability, of quiet confidence, a sense of commitment to what it is that we do as a basketball program,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “For us to win on Thursday shows that we are capable, for us to lose tonight in the fashion that we did shows that we have a lot to improve on.”
UNC built a 18-5 advantage over the first ten minutes as Southern Utah started the night hitting just one of its first ten attempts from the field. Senior guard Nate Unruh got the Northern Colorado offense going by knocking down his first four shots from the outside.
Trey Kennedy sank a jumper from the top of the key and the Thunderbirds battled back to within nine as John Marshall earned a trip to the foul line for two. Northern Colorado would shoot nearly 60 percent from floor in the first half to lead by a score of 40-20 at the break.
Unruh finished the period with 17 points on five 3-pointers. Derrick Barden added another 15 for the visitors while A.J. paced the Thunderbirds with six points over the first 20 minutes.
Cal Hanks put in the first two baskets of the second half for SUU after taking a pass inside from Marshall for a dunk and then dropping in a layup. Sophomore Casey Oliverson added another lay-in to bring the difference to 44-26 after two minutes of play. That would be as close as it would get however as the Bears pushed their lead to 27 on another three by Unruh and came out on top by a final margin of 77-52.
Unruh finished with 22 points, Barden posted 17 and Tevin Svihovec had 12 for the visitors. Northern Colorado shot 47.1 percent from three and 55.8 percent overall. The Bears also held a 29-25 rebounding edge.
Jaren Jeffery led the Thunderbirds with 11 points to go along with four rebounds, two blocks and two assists, while fellow senior Jayson Cheesman turned in two points, three boards and three blocks. Hess and Marshall each scored another nine for SUU.
“It’s a tough loss, especially on our home court and especially for our seniors. Jaren and Jayson gave a great effort, put some points on the board, but it’s a tough way to go out.” stated Robinson. “Those guys have been part of building a foundation for this basketball program. A lot goes unnoticed when it comes to academics and representing Southern Utah off the court, and those two guys really exemplified that.”