Clutch free throws and six players in double digits allowed the University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball team to win 91-86 in a double overtime classic against Idaho State at the Bank of Colorado Arena.
The game lifted UNC to 13-8 (6-2 Big Sky) and pushed Idaho State down to 8-14 (3-6 Big Sky).
It was a physical battle all the way through. The Bengals made a defensive statement early. They were dominant on the boards, collecting 19 offensive rebounds, compared to the Bears five. The Bengals sent double teams towards UNC forward Saint Thomas throughout the night. The adjustment appeared to be a good one as Thomas was held to just two points at half and six at the end of regulation.
The game plan could not hold back Thomas for the entire game however, as he erupted in both overtime periods, finishing the game with a team leading 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds. This comes just one game after Thomas was awarded his sixth player of the week award. Jaron Rillie poured on 17 points of his own as the five starters for UNC accumulated 67 of the team’s 91 points.
“My teammates got me out the shell and I went external, and I was going internal, and my teammates helped me. I felt like that was the biggest thing of overtime,” Thomas said.
Center Brayden Parker led the way for the Bengals with a game-high 26 points along with nine rebounds. Miguel Tomley and Maleek Arington were key scorers as well, adding on 22 and 17 respectively in the loss.
The game started with UNC dominating as they opened up on a 16-4 run, highlighted by a chase down block on one end and a euro step layup on the other by guard Langston Reynolds.
Despite shooting a poor 29.7% from the field in the first half, the Bengals were able to claw back into the game, closing the gap to 34-30 at halftime.
The game was physical throughout, especially towards the end of regulation as well as the two overtime periods. Despite the physical defense, UNC was not able to register a free throw in the first half. The flood gates opened for them however as they finished with 27 attempts, making 20 of them.
Five of those free throws came with their backs against the wall. At the end of regulation, Rillie was able to knock down both free throws to tie the game at 60. After a steal, the crowd rose to their feet and Thomas had a chance at a three, but the shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
Near the end of the first overtime, the Bears were down by three with just 25 seconds left but a foul on Dejour Reaves from behind the arc gave the Bears a chance to tie. You could hear a pin drop in the arena as he knocked down all three to send the game to double overtime.
“To hit those free throws, I mean, that was big time,” Bears head coach Steve Smiley said.
Down the stretch of the game, both teams got to the free-throw line at will as both teams were in the bonus. After getting a steal on one end, Thomas took it down and got to the line, knocking down both to put the Bears up with under two minutes left in double overtime.
The Bengals were able to answer back however, getting a basket of their own. The entire crowd was on their feet. Up one point, Bears guard Zach Bloch then drilled a three in the left corner to put UNC up for good. The final score of the game was 91-86.
Looking forward, the Bears will continue their four-game home stand against Weber State Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Bank of Colorado Arena. Idaho State will take on Northern Arizona University at 2 p.m. on Saturday night in Arizona.