North Dakota (4-8) at Weber State (8-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Events Center (12,000) -- Ogden, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: UND 3-2, Weber State 5-1. Away Record: UND 1-6, Weber State 3-2. Neutral Record: UND 0-0, Weber State 0-0. Conference Record: UND 1-2, Weber State 3-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Weber State Wildcats close out a three-game homestand on Saturday, as they entertain North Dakota in Big Sky Conference action.
Although North Dakota's first season as a member of the Big Sky has not gone as smoothly as it had hoped through the first two months, it has been playing much better of late, registering back-to-back wins over Bowling Green (56-53) and Idaho State (66-53). The team has still lost twice as many games as it has won, and it has claimed just one victory in seven tries away from home.
Weber State slipped a bit in mid-November with back-to-back losses at San Jose State (68-67 in OT) and Utah State (65-55), but since then it has proved why it is considered one of the favorites to win the Big Sky this year. The Wildcats have ripped off wins in seven of their last eight outings, including four in a row, most recently beating up on Northern Colorado on Thursday night, 79-54.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these newly-formed conference rivals.
Despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor against Idaho State, North Dakota's first-ever Big Sky win came thanks to its stout performance at the defensive end, as it held the Bengals to 34.8 percent field goal efficiency. It also held a commanding 43-22 rebounding advantage and had a solid 21-of-29 showing from the foul line. Making all eight of his attempts from the charity stripe was Aaron Anderson, who finished with a game-high 19 points. Troy Huff tallied 15 points and seven boards off the bench, Josh Schuler added 14 points, and Jordan Allard grabbed 10 rebounds. A strong defensive effort is a must for North Dakota to win most of its games, as its offensive output (.400 FG percentage, 64.4 ppg) has been lackluster at best. The return of Huff (13.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) to the lineup has certainly been a big help, as he missed eight games with an injury earlier in the year. Anderson scores 12.6 ppg, albeit on just 36.4 percent field goal shooting.
It was smooth sailing for Weber State in its 25-point victory over Northern Colorado, as it shot 54.5 percent from the floor (including 9-of-19 from 3- point range) in a game in which it never trailed. Connecting on 5-of-7 from beyond the arc was Scott Bamforth, who finished with a season-high 22 points. Gelaun Wright chipped in 13 points, while Kyle Tresnak and Jordan Richardson poured in 10 points apiece. Putting points on the board has not been a problem for the Wildcats this season, as not only do they lead the conference in scoring (77.5 ppg), but they rank eighth in the nation in field goal percentage (.506) and third in 3-point percentage (.426). WSU is without an elite scorer, as Davion Berry leads the way with a modest 12.5 ppg, but seven players average at least 7.5 ppg. Bamforth (12.3 ppg) and Jordan Richardson (9.6 ppg) have combined for 46 of the team's 78 treys, while Tresnak (10.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg), Joel Bolomboy (8.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Wheelwright (7.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg) have been strong in the frontcourt.
North Dakota has shown signs of life lately, but it will quickly learn that the Dee Events Center is one of the most hostile places to play in the conference. Weber State's recent offensive outburst will continue as it rolls to another easy win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Weber State 80, North Dakota 60
01/05 10:32:51 ET