GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Junior Tate Unruh sparked a closing 17-5 run for Northern Colorado in the final three minutes of play to lead the Bears to a 75-66 victory over North Dakota in Big Sky play on Friday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Unruh scored 10 of his 13 points in the final seven minutes of the contest as the Bears (3-6, 1-0 BSC) erased a 12-point second half deficit to win their Big Sky opener. His 3-pointer at the 3:03 mark ignited that strong finish and he would connect again from deep on NC’s next possession to give his team the lead for good.
Junior Aaron Anderson led UND with 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor and Mitch Wilmer equaled his career-high for the second straight outing with 15 points.
Junior Troy Huff came off the bench to score 14 points in what his first appearance since breaking his jaw in the season opener at K-State on Nov. 9.
“I can’t fault our effort,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “Our guys are playing hard, but we just aren’t coming up with a big stop when we need it. We just have to figure out a way to make some plays down the stretch and we’ll get one of these to go our way.”
NC forward Derrick Barden was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points. He went 9-for-10 from the field and made all five of his attempts in the second half to pace a 73.7 percent shooting clip by the visitors after the break.
UND put up 17 more shots than NC did after intermission, but the Bears made 14 compared to just 13 for the home team, who shot 33 percent for the game.
The Bears built a nine-point advantage on the strength of back-to-back 3-pointers by Paul Garnica midway through the first, but UND would chip away at its deficit, clawing all the way back to square things at 31-31.
Huff sparked a 7-0 run in the final 1:37 to pull the home team even at the half. “I thought Troy really let the game come to him,” Jones added. “He didn’t force anything and you could see he has made some strides there. It was a nice to have him back.”
UND kept that momentum early in the second half, racing out of the gates to the tune of a 12-point lead. The Green and White outscored the Bears 22-10 in the opening nine minutes and benefited from an odd sequence that led to what was a seven-point possession.
Junior Josh Schuler knocked down a 3-pointer and after the shot was released, NC’s Connor Osborne was called for a flagrant foul on Wilmer. The six-foot-11 big man made both free throws and UND would get possession as well. Jamal Webb then capped the 7-0 spurt with a jumper, which put UND ahead 43-35.
Schuler would stretch the lead to 11 with another 3-pointer, but the Bears would start to chip away from that point. Sophomore Paul Garnica hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game and Barden would cap a 13-1 run that had his squad within a point with just under six minutes to play.
UND would maintain an advantage for the next three minutes before Unruh caught fire and made a pair of highly-contested 3-pointers to put his team back in the lead.
Tevin Svihovec would than ice the game from the free throw line as he finished with a 10-for-11 clip on the game, including an 8-for-8 effort in the final 61 seconds.
Svihovec finished with 19 points and Garnica added 14 off the Bears’ bench.
UND will return to action after Christmas with a non-conference game against Bowling Green on Friday, Dec. 28. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.