A combination of factors often contribute to when teams lose games. Such was the case for the University of Northern Colorado on Tuesday night, particularly on the track.
UNC (2-1) fell on the road after a tough fourth quarter against University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (2-1), 61-55.
The Bears and Vaqueros traded points for most of the contest, with Northern Colorado taking a seven-point lead at the 8:55 mark after holding the home team to seven points in the third.
“It was definitely a low-scoring game and we thought it was going to be,” said UNC coach Kristen Mattio. “Of course we defended very well in the third quarter and then just didn’t get over the finish line.”
UTRGV scored an average of 64 opponent points last season. Northern Colorado allowed opponents to score about 61 points per game last season.
Mattio noted the defensive breakdowns – example: a wide open Turn 3 with 33 seconds left – and some small mistakes. UTRGV took advantage of this.
It went 7 of 10 from the field, 3 of 3 from the deep and 10 of 10 at the line.
The Vaqueros scored 28 points in the fourth. It was the highest performance in a single quarter for both teams.
This comes days after a nine-point win in Denver as Northern Colorado fended off a tough Pioneer squad.
“We had some missed tasks defensively and they got wide open then they made us pay for it,” Mattio said as he compares the two games. “Most of the time I thought we were really solid defensively. If you look at the first three quarters, they only had 33 points. That’s very good. We went to the fourth. We just didn’t finish well and I’m thinking more from the defensive end.”
The most obvious statistical deficit came from misses in easy locations. UNC missed many layups and attempts at the free throw line.
The Bears only made 15 of 24 out of the strip. The Vaqueros went 12 from 15. These errors made a difference in the result and could have given the visitors a bigger cushion down the course.
Northern Colorado’s offense had a poor evening overall. The team hit 17 of 51 (33%) of their field goals and 6 of 20 (30%) of their 3s, well below their season averages.
UNC hits field goals with a clip of 47% and 3 seconds at about 40%, despite having a small sample size. Last year those numbers were around 40% and 35%, respectively.
Junior Hannah Simental led the team with 16 points, with freshman Averee Kleinhans right behind with 15.
Arvada junior Delaynie Byrne scored nine points and pulled off eight rebounds.
Mattio said the team never really got into an offensive rhythm and was “not in tune” with what they were trying to do.
“We did a lot of things really well, then at the same time we also put things together that took us in the other direction,” added Mattio.
UNC had 40 rebounds and 10 assists while capping its turnovers at 13.
UTRGV finished with 39 rebounds, 12 assists and 10 turnovers. Both squads also picked up multiple blocks and steals.
Mattio called the game a “learning opportunity” on how to finish games consistently and stay focused in times of crisis.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” said Mattio. “I think we just have to finish well.”
The Bears will continue their road swing Thursday at 5 p.m. when they play Incarnate Word in San Antonio.