Big Sky men's basketball tournament

Big Sky men’s tourney Day 1 – Hot shooting by UNC, NAU lead teams into quarters

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BOISE, Idaho — Bodie Hume has steadily built a reputation as one of the top talents in the Big Sky Conference.

From earning Freshman of the Year three years ago to notching All-Big Sky nods each of the last two seasons, the 6-foot-6 Northern Colorado swingman is toward the top of the scouting report for most Big Sky opponents.

On Wednesday in the first game of the BSC men’s basketball tournament, Hume looked like one of the Big Sky’s best once again.

Hume caught fire early and kept cooking on the way to pouring in 30 points to lead No. 8 seed Northern Colorado to a 90-83 win over No. 9 Sacramento State.

Northern Colorado junior Bodie Hume/ by Brooks Nuanez

“It’s only the first game so we will see what happens tomorrow but it’s definitely just moving without the ball a little better,” Hume said. “I was a catch and shoot guy today and that was special for me.”

The former Colorado prep player of the year hit two 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game. He was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc by halftime. And his triple with 7:14 left, his seventh of the game, helped push a three-point Bears lead to six as UNC pulled away late in an entertaining, offensively drive opening game.

“Public enemy No. 1 for us on our scouting report was Bodie Hume,” Sac State 13th-year head coach Brian Katz said. “We knew all about him. And he still went off to say it lightly.”

BOX SCORE

The first round of this year’s men’s tournament features three games between teams that did not play during the regular-season, including the opener between UNC and Sac State.

Both teams shot the lights out in the first half as the Hornets took a 45-42 lead to the break. By the time the game was finished, UNC had one of its best offensive outputs of the season thanks to shooting 56.7 percent from the floor, including 13 of its 20 attempts from beyond the arc.

“That was our best offensive game we’ve had all year,” Northern Colorado first-year head coach Steve Smiley said. “We did a tremendous job shooting it from everywhere…When you get to March, players have to make plays.”

Sacramento State senior Bryce Fowler gets to the rim against UNC’s Bodie Hume/ by Brooks Nuanez

Sacramento State senior Bryce Fowler scored 23 points to lead a Hornet offense that shot 55.7 percent from the floor and hit seven of its 10 tries from beyond the arc. Fowler surpassed 1,000 points for his career in his final game playing for Katz.

“I’m grateful to even be able to score over 1,000,” Fowler said. “I wish we could’ve won but I’m grateful. The thing I’ll remember most is just being able to build a brotherhood with my teammates. That speaks louder than wins or losses.”

UNC junior Matt Johnson, one of the most improved players in the Big Sky over the last few years, affirmed his All-Big Sky nod earned earlier this week by scoring 15 points and dishing out eight assists. Daylen Kountz hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 14 points to go with eight rebounds. And Kur Jockuch had a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as the Bears dominated the glass, 34-19.

“The way Sac State plays, they tend to load up a lot,” Johnson said. “I was able to see the initial defender, the backside defender and I found Bodie in his sweet spots.”

Sac State All-Big Sky forward Ethan Esposito had 18 points, four rebounds and four assists in his final game for the Hornets. Zach Chappell scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting while Christian Terrell scored 15 points as the Hornets saw their season end with an 8-13 record.

Northern Colorado moves into the quarterfinals of the tournament. The Bears will take on No. 1 seed Southern Utah at 11 a.m. on Thursday. The two teams did not play during the regular season.

“This time of year, it’s one more day,” Smiley said. “Now we have one more day. That’s all we really care about.”

No. 10 NAU 77, No. 7 Portland State 66

As Luke Avdalovic’s third 3-pointer of the first half went swished home while he fell to the ground after getting drilled by a Portland State defender, all the NAU junior sharpshooter could do was smile.

Northern Arizona junior Luke Avdalovic poured in 26 points against Portland State on Wednesday/ by Brooks Nuanez

Avdalovic hit the free throw as well, giving Northern Arizona a 37-22 lead with four minutes to go in the first half. By the time Avdalovic scored off one of PSU’s 17 turnovers, the Big Sky tournament’s No. 10 seed had a commanding 22-point lead. And by the time Avdalovic hit his final bucket on a career-best afternoon, the junior had 26 points and his team had a 77-66 win to move into the quarterfinals of the Big Sky postseason.

“Historically, the way we play Portland State, I usually get some good looks and I attest that to our preparation and to our point guard (Cam Shelton),” Avdalovic said. “When came gets past that first line, he is so good at helping me find my spots. We knew what type of game this was going to be and that we would have to knock them down.”

The Lumberjacks put on a 3-point shooting clinic, hitting their first seven from beyond the arc and nine of their first 10 overall. Meanwhile, Portland State missed 19 of its first 21 shots from deep.

NAU finished 12-of-16 from distance while the Vikings finished 6-of-30 from the arc.

BOX SCORE

The win marks the first time NAU has won a game in the conference tournament since 2015. The victory was also the first of Shane Burchar’s head coaching career.

“That’s a big win for NAU basketball,” Burchar said. “I think the last time NAU won a game in the tournament was in 2015 and I think it’s really appropriate right now to say thank you to a couple of people.

“I want to say thank you to (former head coach) Jack Murphy for bringing me to NAU as a friend and a coach. I’m happy to be carrying that on.”

From the outset of the game, Northern Arizona looked locked in, moving the ball crisply to earn repeated open looks. The Lumberjacks finished with 17 assists. NAU first-team All-Big Sky guard Cam Shelton started slow and finished with eight points, about 14 below his league-leading average. But he led his team with six assists.

Keith Haymon knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points. Nick Mains hit a pair of 3-pointers before rolling his right ankle and leaving the game.

“We were mentally ready in every aspect,” Burchar said. “We knew what we were running, or at least we thought we did. I like our skill set to match Portland State and we executed.”

Portland State head coach Barrett Peery/by Brooks Nuanez

In a season filled with challenges for every team in America, Portland State had a variety of additional hurdles. Because of the Oregon state government regulations, PSU didn’t start practicing for more than a month after the rest of the league.

With limited practice time, a roster featuring no returning starters and nine new players struggled to gel. The Vikings finished 6-8 in league play to enter this tournament as the No. 7 seed.

On Wednesday, PSU fell behind early and lost its juice quickly. Khalid Thomas scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Vikings finish the season 9-13. James Scott added 16 points PSU.

“We ran into a team that shot the heck out of the basketball today,” PSU head coach Barrett Peery said. “Give NAU a lot of credit. We just didn’t shoot the ball well.

“Trust was a big word this season. I reminded our guys after the game that I appreciated them because they stuck with us. When we left (Boise) last year, we did not see our team again until sometime in October. That was a big, big hurdle. Guys really had to trust that we were going to manage this and be ok.”

Now a Lumberjack team that finished 4-10 in the Big Sky and 5-15 during the regular-season is into the quarterfinals. NAU will take on Eastern Washington at 5 p.m. on Thursday. NAU’s games against Eastern scheduled for early December were postponed, then only one was replayed. EWU beat NAU 80-64 on December 19.

“I haven’t really thought about it because I’ve been focused on Portland State,” Burchar said. “I felt bad for Coach Legans and his team last year because they were predicted to win it last year and then the pandemic hit. They did such a good job and he does such a good job. I know they have some players that are hungry to get to the NCAA Tournament. They have a veteran group.

“We are looking forward to knowing we are in the next side of the bracket.”

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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