Montana State (6-7) at North Dakota (4-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sioux Center (3,300) -- Grand Forks, North Dakota. Television: Big Sky TV. Home Record: MSU 5-2, UND 3-3. Away Record: MSU 1-5, UND 1-7. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, UND 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 3-2, UND 1-4. Series Record: Montana State leads, 8-7.
GAME NOTES: The Montana State Bobcats put their season-long, four-game winning on the line, as they pull into Grand Forks for a Big Sky Conference clash with North Dakota.
Montana State won its first road game of the year on Thursday night by defeating Northern Colorado, 69-66. As mentioned, it was the Bobcats' fourth straight, which has helped them move above .500 in conference play (3-2). The streak has also helped erase a brutal start to the season, and a win in this matchup will allow them to reach .500 for the first time since they were 1-1 back on Nov. 18.
North Dakota's inaugural season as a member of the Big Sky has not been a very memorable one thus far, as it has dropped four of five conference bouts. It most recently lost a 77-62 decision at home to Montana on Thursday, which was the team's 10th defeat of the season.
Montana State holds an 8-7 advantage in the all-time series with North Dakota, but these newly-formed conference rivals are meeting for the first time since 1964.
With its game against Northern Colorado tied with 1:26 left to play, Montana State closed the contest by hitting 3-of-4 at the free throw line to escape with its third straight one-score victory. It was an impressive shooting night for the Bobcats, who hit nearly 49 percent from the floor and were paced by reserve Calen Coleman with 16 points. Xavier Blount added 14 points and seven rebounds, Paul Egwuonwu had 12 points and three blocks, and Christian Moon chipped in 10 points. On the season, Montana State has shot a much lower percentage from the field (.417) than its opponents (.467), but it is still able to score 73.0 ppg (plus-0.8 scoring margin) by sporting an outstanding turnover margin of plus-5.15, which ranks first in the conference. Moon, Blount and Antonio Biglow all share duties as the team's primary scoring option, as all put up between 12.3 and 12.6 ppg, although Biglow is currently serving an indefinite suspension. Flavien Davis, Jamie Stewart and Calen Coleman all net between 9.1 and 9.8 ppg.
North Dakota fought Montana hard in the first half, as it went into intermission down just two, but it lost control after the break, trailing by as many as 20 before suffering the defeat. Troy Huff did all he could to keep his team in it, shooting 8-of-14 from the field for 24 points, while also adding five rebounds and four steals. Jamal Webb was impressive as well, tallying 11 points, seven assists and four steals. The team shot 41.2 percent on Thursday night, which was actually an improvement over its season percentage of .394, and its 64.1 ppg is 4.4 ppg fewer than what it allows to its opponents. Huff missed eight games early on and his return to the lineup has been more than welcomed, as he accounts for 15.7 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Aaron Anderson chips in 13.1 ppg and 2.9 apg, while Josh Schuler (9.0 ppg) and Webb (8.2 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.3 spg) also do their part, but all four of North Dakota's top scorers shoot less than 39 percent from the field.
North Dakota has played better at home than on the road, but that isn't saying much, as it still is just 3-3 at the Sioux Center. Continuing its road trip might tire out Montana State, but it has been able to pull out close wins of late and that trend should continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 65, North Dakota 62
01/12 10:33:42 ET