Idaho State (5-21) at Northern Arizona (10-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 28, 8:35 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walkup Skydome (11,230) -- Flagstaff, Arizona. Television: NAU-TV. Home Record: Idaho State 4-6, NAU 5-5. Away Record: Idaho State 1-12, NAU 4-11. Neutral Record: Idaho State 0-3, NAU 1-1. Conference Record: Idaho State 3-10, NAU 7-9. Series Record: Idaho State leads, 48-43.
GAMES NOTES: The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks will try to stay in contention for a spot in the Big Sky Tournament when they square off with the Idaho State Bengals in league play at the Walkup Skydome.
For Idaho State, postseason play is likely out of the question. The Bengals are dead last in the Big Sky at 4-12 with an overall record of just 5-21 overall. With only seven teams making the conference tournament the Bengals would more than likely need to win their final four contests and get help from several other teams to pull off an unlikely run. Idaho State plays its final road game of the season next against Sacramento State.
If the season ended today, Northern Arizona would just get into the Big Sky Tournament. The Lumberjacks are currently 7-9 in league play which has them tied with Sacramento State and Montana State for fifth place in the conference standings. The Lumberjacks are really clinging to that lead with eighth place Northern Colorado just a half game back. The Bears have lost three of their last four however and are set to play conference leaders Weber State and Montana in two of the final three contests.
When these teams met in Pocatello earlier this season, Northern Arizona earned a 60-55 victory. The Lumberjacks outscored the Bengals 24-9 from 3-point range in the contest. However, the Bengals still lead the all-time series, 48-43.
Idaho State is coming off a 75-69 defeat to instate rival Idaho in BracketBusters action. The battle of the boards was where the game was won and lost with the Vandals earning a 45-23 edge in rebounds and a 34-11 advantage in second-chance points.
The terrible showing that Idaho State has put out on the offensive end of the floor this season has kept it down. The Bengals rank at the very bottom of the Big Sky in scoring (56 ppg), assists (10 apg) and field-goal percentage (.406). Idaho State often struggles to get much production on the glass as well with as the team manages to bring in the third fewest rebounds per game (26.9) in the nation. Melvin Morgan (12.0 ppg) is the leading scorer for the Bengals though he shoots worse than 40 percent from the field. Chris Hansen (11.5 ppg) had a game-high 19 points against Idaho but is also suffering from erratic shooting (.373). Tomas Sanchez (10.4 ppg, 3.8 apg) is the primary distributor and a decent scorer in his own right.
Northern Arizona was also involved in a BracketBusters affair last Saturday. However the Lumberjacks were not as competitive in their bout as they were routed, 84-50, by Hawaii. The Lumberjacks managed to shoot just 28.1 percent from the floor, while being outscored 32-8 in the paint.
For Northern Arizona the issue this season has been at the defensive end of the floor. The Lumberjacks have really let themselves down by allowing teams to put up 75.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting. Each of those marks is among the 20 worst in the country. Gabe Rogers (17.4 ppg) is a gunner from beyond the arc that has carried the Lumberjacks on the offensive end as the second-highest scorer in the Big Sky. Dewayne Russell (14.7 ppg, 3.1 apg) is another productive scorer who has had to take over primary distributor responsibilities with Stallon Saldivar (6.2 ppg, 4.8 apg) listed questionable.
This is an important game for Northern Arizona considering how difficult the rest of the schedule is. If the Lumberjacks hope to make an appearance in the Big Sky Tournament they need a win this contest and take it from there.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Arizona 71, Idaho State 61
02/28 10:37:29 ET