Montana (8-4) at North Dakota (4-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 10, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Betty Engelstad Sioux Center (3,300) -- Grand Forks, North Dakota. Television: Big Sky TV. Home Record: Montana 5-1, UND 3-2. Away Record: Montana 3-2, UND 1-7. Neutral Record: Montana 0-1, UND 0-0. Conference Record: Montana 4-0, UND 1-3. Series Record: Montana leads, 7-5.
GAME NOTES: North Dakota kicks off a four-game homestand on Thursday night with a battle against the Montana Grizzlies at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
New to the Big Sky Conference, UND has had a rough start to league play with just one win in four opportunities. Last week the team earned a split in conference bouts as it defeated Idaho State on the road by a score of 66-53, but then was pummeled by Weber State in a 95-63 decision, snapping the squad's brief two-game win streak.
As for the Grizzlies, they enter play on Thursday tied with Weber State for the top spot in the Big Sky with a perfect 4-0 start. Thanks to a 62-55 triumph over Portland State last Saturday at home, Montana has won five of its last six outings overall.
Montana may lead the series against North Dakota by a count of 7-5, but in games played in Grand Forks, it is UND that is ahead by a a 4-1 margin entering this contest.
The defense for Montana held the Vikings to just seven field goals in the first half of their meeting last Saturday, providing the Grizzlies with enough momentum to generate a 14-point halftime advantage which eventually turned into a seven-point win. Will Cherry scored 16 points and handed out seven assists, while Kareem Jamar and Mathias Ward chipped in 14 and 11 points, respectively, and combined for 13 rebounds. Ward and Jamar, the only two players to have started every game for Montana this season, are also the only ones averaging double figures at the moment with 14.2 ppg and 13.5 ppg, respectively. Jamar is one of those players who can do it all, from rebounding (6.2 rpg) and passing (46 assists), to playing sound defense.
Against Weber State last weekend, North Dakota came out very flat in the first half (5-of-31) from the floor and was never able to recover as the Wildcats cruised to the 32-point win. Aaron Anderson managed a team-best 23 points for UND as he knocked down all 10 of his free-throw attempts, followed by Troy Huff with 15 points and eight boards off the bench, but he connected on a mere 3-of-14 from the field. Jamal Webb tacked on another 10 points for a squad that ended up hitting 30.4 percent from the floor. Huff, who has appeared in just five games this season, has given the program a bit of a spark on offense with his 14.0 ppg, but because Anderson (13.4 ppg) is the only other double- digit scorer, this is a group that is having trouble producing significant point totals. It doesn't help that both players are shooting below 40 percent from the floor.
Montana is at the top of the league standings for a reason, and North Dakota is about to find out why, up close and personal.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 79, North Dakota 63
01/10 10:33:00 ET