GAME NOTES: The postseason is alive and well for a couple of teams from non- power conferences, as the Northern Colorado Bears entertain the Islanders of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as part of the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The Bears, members of the Big Sky Conference, played well during the early portion of the league slate, but then fell apart. The squad did take down Northern Arizona in the first round of the conference tournament last week, 62-60, but a day later it was Weber State, the eventual tournament champion, that delivered the knockout blow in a 66-63 final in overtime in Utah.
The Bears took part in this event back in 2010, defeating Portland by a score of 81-73 in the first round before bowing to Pacific, 63-59, the following week.
As for the Islanders, newcomers to this event, they closed out the regular season with seven straight victories, but then the Southland Conference Tournament arrived and the team was ushered out by Sam Houston State by a score of 69-63.
In terms of a relationship between these two squads, UNC sources have the Islanders ahead by a count of 4-0, stemming from games played between 2003-2006 when the Bears made the move to Division I status and played as an Independent.
The winner of this meeting advances to the second round of the tournament to face an opponent that has yet to be determined.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi isn't a particularly strong offensive team, scoring 69.0 ppg, partly because the squad has made good on only 66.6 percent at the free-throw line over the course of 32 contests. John Jordan is the leading scorer on the unit with 14.8 ppg, but he has knocked down only 21.9 percent behind the 3-point line and, as the player who has made it to the free-throw line more than twice as many times as his closest teammate (180-of-264), his 68.2 percent effort is more than questionable. However, having Jordan on the floor means the offense is far better off, given that he paces the group with 163 assists as well. Rashawn Thomas accounts for 10.5 ppg, shooting an impressive 58.0 percent from the field, but he too has damaged the team's level of accuracy at the charity stripe with only 55.7 percent shooting.
As the only player on the Northern Colorado roster to have started all 31 games, it only makes sense that Derrick Barden is also the leading scorer for the program with his 14.0 ppg, not to mention tops on the glass with 7.8 rpg. Barden, who is pulling down more than three offensive rebounds per contest, is shooting 57.8 percent from the floor, helping to bring the Bears close to 50 percent on the campaign. A 3-point specialist, Tate Unruh has used his 41.0 percent accuracy on the perimeter to generate another 12.6 ppg, although it doesn't hurt that he is also converting 95.2 percent at the free-throw line. Tim Huskisson (10.5 ppg) has become a top-notch reserve, while Tevin Svihovec is responsible for another 10.2 ppg for the group as well.
The Islanders were a hot commodity heading into the conference tournament, but you have to take into consideration the level of competition in the Southland these days and weigh that against what UNC was going up against in 2013-14. The Bears playing at home is also reason enough to give the end to the hosts.
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