Northern Colorado turned basketball for breakfast into a win on Wednesday morning to advance in the Big Sky Tournament.
No. 8 UNC (11-10, 6-8 Big Sky) picked up a 90-83 first-round win over No. 9 Sacramento State (8-12, 5-9 Big Sky) in Boise, Idaho. It was the first time this season the two programs faced each other after the regular season contest was canceled due to COVID-19.
While Northern Colorado took a quick lead early, the game was everything a conference tournament matchup is supposed to be — competitive, historic and fun. The two teams went back and forth in the first half with Sac State taking a three-point advantage into the break.
Of course, UNC wasn’t going to quit and came out of the locker room, like the beginning of the game, with a sense of urgency and physicality.
The Bears tied the game and then retook the lead right out of the gate with two consecutive makes from freshman forward Bryce Kennedy. SSU tried to come back, getting within one point, but UNC kept responding.
“We just had to stay composed. We had to stay together as a team,” UNC junior guard Matt Johnson said. “Coach always says that — be a together team. I think that really went well for us at the end of the game.”
Hume led all scorers with a career-high 30 points, on 7-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. He also added eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
The junior from Sterling recorded his previous career high of 27 points against Idaho State back in December.
“Public enemy No. 1 for us on our report was Bodie Hume,” said Sacramento State coach Brian Katz. “We know all about him. He went off to say it lightly. We have a lot of respect for their program, in particular him. He really plays hard.”
Hume wasn’t the only guy to come up big for the Bears, though.
Johnson had 15 points and a career-high eight assists. Kountz finished with 14 points and eight boards.
Then there was junior forward Kur Jockuch. He not only contributed his fifth straight double-double when he made 14 points and 11 boards, but he provided UNC with three assists and two blocks.
UNC went 34-of-60 from the field, 13-of-20 from downtown and was near perfect with 9-of-10 at the stripe.
“What a great game. It was a totally different game than some of the ones we’ve had recently,” Bears coach Steve Smiley said. “That was our best offensive game we had all year. They did a tremendous job. They put us in a lot of binds defensively, but at the end of the day, when that thing came down to it, players had to make plays. I’m just really proud of our guys.”
In addition to the hot shooting, the Bears picked up 34 rebounds to Sac State’s 19. Of Northern Colorado’s boards, eight came on the offensive end to provide eight second chance points.
Sacramento State finished 34-of-61 from the field and 7-of-10 on the 3-point line to end its season. Bryce Fowler scored his 1,000th career point for the Hornets during the contest.
The Bears will play Southern Utah for the first time since Feb. 20, 2020.
Both regular season matchups were canceled after the program suspended activities last month in light of Smiley’s positive COVID-19 case.
Northern Colorado was set to play the Thunderbirds in the 2020 Big Sky quarterfinals before the tournament was canceled as the coronavirus emerged in the United States.
The game will take place at 11 a.m. on Thursday with a free broadcast available on Pluto TV channel 1050.
“Every game that you do well in, every game that you win gives you confidence,” Hume said. “I’m excited to play Southern Utah. Like coach has told us, we owe them a game.”
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