GREELEY, Colo., March 7 - Jackson Stevenett scored a game-high 25 points and had a team-best seven rebounds but no other Thunderbird scored in double figures as Northern Colorado picked up a 66-58 win in Big Sky men's basketball play Thursday night.
The Bears got off to a quick start and although the Thunderbirds kept it close throughout they were never able to take a lead in falling to 11-18 overall and 8-11 in Big Sky play with just one game left to play.
Southern Utah still remains in the hunt for a Big Sky tournament bid, but the loss put a damper on the Thunderbirds' hopes. SUU came into the night tied with Montana State, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona for the final three tournament berths. Sacramento State lost at Montana while MSU and NAU were playing at Bozeman, Mont., with that game close in the second half when the SUU game ended.
The Bears ran out to a 9-2 lead, then after SUU pulled back to within 11-8 on s Tyson Koehler basket scored went on a 72- run with SUU getting just a short jumper from Jayson Cheesman. The Thunderbirds again rallied, getting within 23-19 on a 3-pointer by Jackson Stevenett with 7:59 to go in the half, but the Thunderbirds were unable to get any closer than four the rest of the way and found themselves down 34-26 at halftime.
Stevenett had 11 points at the break on 4-of-7 shooting while Cheesman had six on 3-of-5 from the floor but Damon Heuir went scoreless in the period and the Thunderbirds hit just 11-of-28 shots while UNC converted 12-of-22 attempts. Derrick Barden and Connor Osborne each had nine at the break to lead UNC.
Northern Colorado scored the first basket after the break to build a 10-point lead and eventually pushed its advantage to 48-37 on a Tevin Svihovec jumper at the 13:31 mark but the Thunderbirds battled back, pulling within 52-48 after jumpers by Koehler and Stevenett.
SUU had an opportunity to pull within two after a Bear miss but Stevenett's jumper from the left wing was off the mark and UNC pushed its advantage to 54-48 on a Barden basket and SUU would get no closer the rest of the way.
The Thunderbirds wound up shooting 41.7 percent (25-of-60) while UNC finished at an even 50 percent (23-46).
"I thought we did a decent job matching their intensity but in the first half they were a lot more physical than we were and it took a few possessions to adjust," SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. "They played extremely well. Both their post guys did a nice job of being physical and rebounding.
"We fought back in the but I thought there were a couple of stretches where we got a little tight and we just didn't seem to have the urgency, or the grit, to get a couple of stops that we needed. For us tonight we just weren't able to get stops. They did a good job executing," he added.
Jayson Cheesman and Jaren Jeffery each had eight points for the Thunderbirds but Heuir finished with just four, 12 fewer than his average. Heuir and A.J. Hess each had four assists for the Thunderbirds, and Cheesman had three, as SUU finished with 15 dimes, one less than their season high, and they turned the ball over a season-low seven times.
Barden had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Bears, who out-rebounded the Thunderbirds 37-30.-- SUU --