GAME NOTES: The Northern Colorado Bears will attempt to close out their four- game homestand undefeated, as they square off with the UC Riverside Highlanders on Monday night.
UCR has not fared well during the first six weeks of the season, as it sits with just a 3-5 record. The Highlanders are losers of three of their last four games, including a 62-52 setback at Air Force on Saturday.
As for Northern Colorado, it has started the season in much better shape at 5-2 thanks largely to its unblemished record at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion in four tries. The Bears battled Colorado College on Dec. 10 and did what was expected of them against the Division III foe by claiming a convincing 96-57 victory.
These two teams met last season for the first time, with the Highlanders claiming a 69-63 victory at home.
Even though UCR faced just a one-point deficit early in the second half in its recent clash with Air Force, it quickly fell victim to a 13-0 run as it lost control of the proceedings. Not only did the squad shoot just 39.1 percent from the field (including 3-of-14 from 3-point range), but it was plagued by 20 turnovers as well as a poor showing from the free-throw line (13-of-23). The lone bright spot in the setback was Taylor Johns, who tallied 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. The Highlanders have struggled to score this season, as they net just 66.8 points per game on less than 44 percent shooting from the field, and their poor percentages extend to beyond the arc (.260) and the charity stripe (.657) as well. Johns is one of the few reliable options with 15.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, while Chris Patton (12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has also established a strong presence in the frontcourt.
The Bears dominated both ends of the floor in their 39-point victory over Colorado College, as they shot a sizzling 59.1 percent from the field while allowing just 34.6 percent to their opponent. Nearly two-thirds of the team's points came from the bench, with Anthony Johnson (15 points) and Tim Huskisson (14 points) leading the charge on a combined 11-of-13 from the field. Derrick Barden added 13 points and nine rebounds, while Dominique Lee and Jordan Wilson chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively. The performance helped out Northern Colorado's already impressive numbers on the season, as the team shoots nearly 49 percent from the floor for 76.3 points per game -- 10.9 points more than it allows. Barden acts as an anchor in the paint with 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, but while his field goal percentage is stellar (.545), he'd like to improve upon his dismal 40 percent showing at the foul line. Tevin Svihovec (12.7 ppg), Tate Unruh (11.3 ppg) and Huskisson (10.9 ppg) each bring additional scoring prowess to the mix.
With these teams trending in opposite directions, expect Northern Colorado's run to continue against a struggling UCR squad as it remains unbeaten on its home floor.
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