FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthington Arena (7,250) -- Bozeman, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: NAU 6-6, Montana State 8-6. Away Record: NAU 4-11, Montana State 3-10. Neutral Record: NAU 1-1, Montana State 0-0. Conference Record: NAU 8-10, Montana State 3-12. Series Record: NAU leads, 47-43.
GAMES NOTES: Two teams locked in the Big Sky Conference standings will try to settle their differences when the Montana State Bobcats match up with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Worthington Arena on Thursday night.
At 8-10 in league action the Lumberjacks are not only tied with the Bobcats fort the fifth spot in the conference standings but with Sacramento State and Southern Utah as well. The Lumberjacks have traded wins and losses in its last four games with its most recent decisions an 8078 overtime loss to powerhouse Weber State. Northern Arizona will end the season on Saturday against conference-leading Montana.
Montana State has been free-falling in the conference standings with losses in six of its last seven games. The Bobcats are a paltry 11-16 overall, while among four teams deadlocked for fifth in the league standings. Montana State has been a mediocre 8-6 at Worthington Arena but have not had a win at home since the end of January. Northern Arizona closes out the season on Saturday against Sacramento State.
When these teams matched up in mid-December in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona grabbed an 87-80 victory. With the win the Lumberjacks improved their all-time series lead to 47-43.
Leading by four points with 30 seconds remaining it looked like Northern Arizona was going to pull off an upset of Weber State. However the Lumberjacks turned the ball over on their second to last possession and Davion Berry put in two free-throws to force overtime. The Lumberjacks missed their first three shots in overtime and were never able to retake the lead en route to the loss.
For the Lumberjacks defense has kept them down. Northern Arizona is letting teams put up 75.2 points per game and shoot at a 46.8 percent clip from the field with each of those marks among the 20 worst in the conference. The Lumberjacks can score well themselves led by the dynamic duo of Gabe Rogers (17.9 ppg) and Dewayne Russell (14.7 ppg) who are each strong performers in the backcourt. Rogers is actually the leading scorer in the conference even though he shoots less than 40 percent from the floor. Stallon Saldivar (6.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.8 apg) makes vital contributions across the board and is second in the league in assists.
Montana State crossed paths with intrastate rival Montana in its last outing and came up just short in a 71-68 loss to the conference leaders. The Bobcats trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half against the Grizzlies but whittled that down to just three with 53 seconds remaining. However a costly turnover on their final possession cost the Bobcats a chance to force overtime.
The Bobcats have also struggled to get stops on the defensive end of the floor. Montana State is allowing 73.3 points per game while teams shoot at a 48.4 percent clip. Montana State is scoring just over 70 points per game itself while shooting just 42.5 percent from the field. Christian Moon (13.5 ppg) finishes on 49.1 percent of his shots from the field as the leading offensive option on the team. Flavien Davis (11.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg) is the second option and also finishes on 49 percent from the field. Xavier Blount (10.5 ppg) and Antonio Biglow (10.2 ppg) can also be leaned on to score, although each has been erratic in shooting below 40 percent from the field.
Considering neither of these teams plays very well on defense this will likely be a shootout. Northern Arizona has the best scorers in this duel in Rogers and Russell but the Bobcats have superior balance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 75, Northern Arizona 71
03/07 10:34:51 ET
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