Montana (9-4) at Northern Colorado (3-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 6:35 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (2,992) -- Greeley, Colorado. Television: Altitude. Home Record: Montana 5-1. Northern Colorado 2-2. Away Record: Montana 4-3, Northern Colorado 1-8. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, Northern Colorado 0-0. Conference Record: Montana 5-0, Northern Colorado 1-4. Series Record: Montana leads, 14-5.
GAMES NOTES: Riding a five-game winning streak, the Montana Grizzlies will look to stay perfect in Big Sky Conference play when they meet up with the Northern Colorado Bears at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion on Saturday.
After blowing out North Dakota on Thursday, 77-62, Montana is now a perfect 5-0 against league foes and with its current win streak has surged to 9-4 overall. The win over North Dakota came on the road for Montana which is 4-3 away from Missoula on the campaign. The Grizzlies are back at home for their next four contests, including a key matchup with Weber State on Jan. 26.
Northern Colorado has been headed in the other direction with losses in four straight after a 69-66 loss to Montana State. During their losing streak the Bears were routed 86-63 by Idaho State which had yet to defeat a Division I squad this season. The Bears are 3-10 overall and just 1-4 against league competition, while splitting their four home contests. Northern Colorado hosts Portland State next in the third part of this four-game homestand.
Last year Montana, which went 15-1 in league play, downed Northern Colorado in both meetings to push its all-time series lead to 14-5.
In its win over North Dakota, Montana nailed 50.8 percent of its shots from the field, including 9-of-22 from beyond the arc to coast to the 15-point victory. Four players scored in double figures in the contest led by Mathias Ward's 27 points.
As a team Montana has turned in pretty average returns on both ends of the floor. The Grizzlies are scoring 68.9 points per game and shooting 45.5 percent from the field. On defense the team allows 64.8 points per game on 41.1 percent shooting. The return to form of Will Cherry (10.3 ppg, 5.2 apg) has been a welcome sight in the last six games. The 6-foot-1 guard led the team in scoring last season and has scored in double figures in four of the last five contests. Ward (15.2 ppg) has been the go-to option on offense with or without Cherry this season.
A slow shooting night doomed Northern Colorado against Montana State on Thursday. The Bears hit just 38.2 percent of their shots from the field. They had an eight-point lead with seven minutes remaining but a 15-4 run to close the game by the Bobcats sealed the Bears' fate.
Usually it has been the defense that has let Northern Colorado down this season. The Bears are allowing 72.1 points per game, while teams hit on 42.3 percent of their field goal attempts. Fouls have been the major issue as the Bears are 16th in the country in fouls per game (20.7). There are three players scoring in double figures for the Bears led by Tate Unruh (11.4 ppg) and Derrick Barden (11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg). By playing close to the basket primarily, Barden has been the more efficient scorer, hitting 54.7 percent of his field goal attempts to 38.3 percent from Unruh.
With Cherry heating up Montana has become even more dangerous. Against Northern Colorado the Grizzlies should continue to dominate in league play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 76, Northern Colorado 63
01/12 10:32:08 ET