GREELEY, Colo. – Northern Colorado used a big first-half run to upend North Dakota 84-66 in the Big Sky opener for both teams on Sunday at Butler-Hancock Pavilion. Senior Jaron Nash finished with a career-high 22 points for UND (3-8, 0-1 BSC), but the Bears (7-3, 1-0 BSC) took control of the contest with a 25-0 run after trailing early 11-7.
Troy Huff added 13 points for UND, but the visitors could never overcome their early hole despite trimming what was a 21-point deficit down to 10 with seven minutes to go in the second half.
Senior Derrick Barden led a dominant effort on the glass for the Bears as he finished with a team-high 18 points and 14 rebounds. Barden and company owned a 41-25 advantage on the glass and UND only came up with nine defensive boards as the Bears shot 60.4 percent from the field in the game (29-for-48).
That rebounding advantage helped the Bears overcome 20 turnovers. UND turned those miscues into 27 points and were a big reason the Green and White put a scare into UNC midway through the second half. Tevin Svihovec and Dominique Lee each had 13 points off the Bears’ bench.
Aaron Anderson gave UND its early 11-7 lead with a jumper at the 15:11 mark, but the Bears responded to their only deficit of the game by reeling off 25 straight points.
UNC converted all 11 of its possessions during that seven-minute stretch into points, going 10-for-12 from the field and the two shots the Bears missed, Barden turned into putbacks.
UND missed 11 straight from the field before Shane Benton ended the drought with a 15-footer. UND ended the first half with a nice spurt to cut what was a 21-point deficit down to 14 by scoring 17 points in the closing six minutes.
Barden had 14 first-half points and went 6-for-8 from the floor as the Bears went 18-for-27 as a team (66.7 percent). UND managed to shoot just 38.9 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes and 36.9 percent for the game.
The Bears built their lead back to 20 early in the second half, but UND made it a 63-53 on a pair of free throws by Quinton Hooker with just over seven minutes to play.
That would be as close as the visitors would get in this one as the Bears went on a 12-3 run right after Hooker’s free throws to end any thoughts of another double-digit comeback that UND pulled off last season.
Jamal Webb had four steals in the contest to bring his UND career-leading total to 201. He also had nine points as he came off the bench for just the second time this season. Nash added three steals and two blocks, while Huff paced the team with six rebounds.
UND returns home on Thursday as part of a rare Big Sky doubleheader with the women’s team against Southern Utah. The double-dip of basketball action starts at 6 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
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