Northern Colorado (3-8) at Idaho State (1-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reed Gym (2,666) -- Pocatello, Idaho. Television: None. Home Record: Northern Colorado 2-1, Idaho State 1-1. Away Record: Northern Colorado 1-7, Idaho State 0-7. Neutral Record: Northern Colorado 0-0, Idaho State 0-3. Conference Record: Northern Colorado 1-2, Idaho State 0-3. Series Record: Idaho State leads, 31-17.
GAMES NOTES: In a Big Sky matchup at Reed Gym, the Northern Colorado Bears will tangle with the struggling Idaho State Bengals on Saturday night.
The season has not been particularly kind to the Bears either. Northern Colorado loss its second straight contest on Thursday in a 79-54 defeat against Weber State. The setback was the eighth in 11 tries for the Bears. It also came during the third leg of a four-game road trip for the Bears that ends in this matchup. Playing on the road has proved dangerous for Northern Colorado which is just 1-7 in away games. Four straight home matchups await the Bears beginning against Montana State on Thursday.
Any struggles the Bears have had pale in comparison to what Idaho State has dealt with this season. The Bengals were downed 66-53 by North Dakota on Thursday as they suffered their sixth straight loss and fell to just 1-11 on the campaign. Idaho State had to step out of Division I play to capture its only win which came against NAIA member Montana Western. The Bengals are playing just their third home game of the season in this matchup but will be back on the road against Southern Utah next.
Last season Idaho State swept the season series to snap a four-game losing streak to Northern Colorado. The Bengals lead the all-time series 31-17.
In the loss to Weber State, Northern Colorado shot just 37.7 percent from the floor and allowed the Wildcats to knock down 54.5 percent of their field goal attempts, including 9-of-19 from beyond the arc. The Bears didn't do themselves any favors by committing 21 turnovers which turned into 25 points for the Wildcats.
Turnovers have been a real issue for Northern Colorado this season as the Bears rank second in the Big Sky in coughing up the ball (15.5 pg). By constantly giving opponents extra scoring opportunities the Bears have been giving up 71.1 points per game, despite limiting foes to just 41.5 percent shooting overall. The turnovers and defensive efforts have largely out shined the solid production the Bears have had on offense as they score 68.5 points per game, while ranking fourth in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (.449). Balance is the key for Northern Colorado on the offensive end with Tevin Svihovec (11.1 ppg) the lead scorer among three in double figures. Derrick Barden (10.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Tate Unruh (10.1 ppg) are also solid scorers, though Unruh could improve his shooting (.358 FG percentage).
Points from 3-point range and the free-throw line were the keys to Idaho State's loss against North Dakota State. The Bengals had deficits of 21-6 from beyond the arc and 21-11 from the charity stripe. Idaho State was also on the short end of a 43-22 discrepancy on the boards.
The Bengals are the second worst scoring team in the country (49.3 ppg), while ranking among the 20 worst shooting teams (386 FG percentage). Such lowly numbers can also be found on the boards where the Bengals are better than just two other teams nationally (26.3 pg), while suffering from a nearly 10 point differential in that category. Defensively, the Bengals have actually been solid allowing 61.9 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting. Melvin Morgan (11.5 ppg) is the lead scorer on the roster but like the rest of the team has struggled to find his shot and connects on just 36.2 percent of his field goal attempts. Chris Hansen (9.2 ppg) and Tomas Sanchez (9.1 ppg) are the only other players scoring more than 6.5 points per game.
If the Bengals can force some turnovers and create extra offensive possessions for themselves against Northern Colorado they may have a chance in what might be one of very few winnable games this year.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Idaho State 58, Northern Colorado 57
01/05 10:31:17 ET