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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 8, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walkup Skydome (7,000) -- Flagstaff, Arizona. Television: FSN-AZ+. Home Record: Montana 11-3, NAU 8-4. Away Record: Montana 6-8, NAU 6-10. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, NAU 0-2. Conference Record: Montana 12-7, NAU 11-8. Series Record: Montana leads, 61-32.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to secure a higher seed in postseason play, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks host the Montana Grizzlies in a Big Sky Conference tilt at Walkup Skydome.
Montana has won five straight, most recently taking care of Sacramento State on the road on Thursday, 70-55. The Grizzlies are currently second in the Big Sky, a half game ahead of North Dakota and a game back of first-place Weber State. Montana can still tie for the regular-season title with a win over NAU and a Weber State loss, but would lose out on the tiebreaker with Weber State for the top seed in the Big Sky Tournament.
The Lumberjacks have clinched a spot in the conference tourney after notching a 61-48 home win against Montana State on Thursday night, their third straight. With a win over Montana, NAU will be the No. 3 seed in the tournament. If the Lumberjacks lose, they can be seeded as low as sixth.
Montana holds the edge in the all-time series with NAU, 61-32. The Lumberjacks defeated the Grizzlies 73-65 in their conference opener at Dahlberg Arena on Jan. 2, snapping Montana's 31-game home winning streak. The Grizzlies took both matchups between the teams last season and have won nine of the last 11 overall.
Jordan Gregory shot 6-of-10 from 3-point range on his way to 18 points to lead the Grizzlies past the Sacramento State Hornets. Kareem Jamar and Keron DeShields both netted 10 points for Montana. The Grizzlies were red-hot from the field in the first half, shooting 63 percent as it carried a comfortable 43-24 lead into the break. Although Sacramento State improved its field goal shooting to 57.1 percent in the second half, it was unable to get closer than nine points of the lead as the Grizzlies coasted to victory.
Jamar continues to have a stellar season for the Grizzlies, as his 18.9 ppg leads the team, along with his 5.6 rpg and 117 assists. Jamar leads the Grizzlies in all three major categories, and is second on the squad in both blocked shots (15) and in steals (25). Gregory adds 13.9 ppg, and DeShields chips in 12.2. Montana is scoring 71.9 ppg, while giving up just 69.0 ppg.
Max Jacobsen and Kris Yanku scored 16 points each as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks breezed by the Montana State Bobcats the last time out. Jacobsen also pulled down nine rebounds for the Lumberjacks, while Gaellan Bewernick posted 10 points and nine boards. Although NAU was limited to 46.4 percent efficiency from the field in the first half, it took a 33-29 lead into the break after it attempted 11 more field goals and connected on 6-of-12 shots from beyond the arc. Leading by just three with under 13 minutes to play in regulation, the Lumberjacks scored 14 straight points to take control of the game. NAU dominated the interior as it won the rebounding battle, 38-19, and outscored the Bobcats in the paint, 28-10.
Despite scoring just two points in the win over Montana State, Quinton Upshur carries the bulk of the workload on offense for the Lumberjacks, with his 15.8 ppg, thanks to a healthy 39.4 percent shooting effort from distance, which improves to a sensational 47.7 percent in Big Sky play. Unfortunately, the team as a whole, while hitting 3-pointers at a 35.1 percent clip, is falling behind opponents who are knocking down 40.3 percent of their long-range chances, putting them at the bottom of the Big Sky in 3-point defense. Jacobsen (12.3 ppg) and Aaseem Dixon (10.9 ppg) have also been steady contributors for the Lumberjacks. As a unit, NAU is scoring 67.2 ppg but giving up 70.3 ppg, saddling the squad with the second-worst scoring margin in the conference.
Both teams come into this contest with momentum and something to play for. The Grizzlies would love a share of the Big Sky regular-season title, and the Lumberjacks are itching to improve their tournament seeding. Both have weapons on offense, but the Lumberjacks have been struggling at the defensive end and that may hurt them when facing a quality opponent like Montana.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 72, Northern Arizona 65
03/08 11:32:14 ET
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