North Dakota (5-9) at Montana (6-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 16, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,321) -- Missoula, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: UND 5-2, Montana 4-2. Away Record: UND 0-5, Montana 2-5. Neutral Record: UND 0-2, Montana 0-0. Conference Record: UND 2-2, Montana 1-3. Series Record: Montana leads, 9-5.
GAME NOTES: North Dakota begins a tour through the Treasure State tonight, as it drops in on the Montana Grizzlies for a Big Sky Conference battle at Dahlberg Arena.
In addition to trying to climb above .500 in conference play, North Dakota is also seeking its first win away from home in 2013-14. The program is not just 0-5 on the road, it is also 0-2 in neutral-site affairs. The team did enjoy a brief two-game win streak recently with victories over Southern Utah and Idaho State, but that came to an end on Saturday with a 72-60 setback versus Weber State at home.
In the case of the Grizzlies, while they have a better record on the season than UND, they are behind tonight's opponent in the Big Sky standings as they sport a mark of just 1-3. Montana did post an 82-70 win over Sacramento State at home a few weeks back, but then ended up bowing to both Eastern Washington and Portland State on the road, the latter being a triple-overtime thriller last Saturday.
Montana owns a 9-5 advantage in the all-time series, posting four wins in five matchups with both programs at the Division I level.
At the Sioux Center over the weekend, UND scored just 24 points in the first half against Weber State and never fully recovered, en route to the 12-point loss. Troy Huff tried to give the hosts a fighting chance with his 17 points and seven rebounds, but he shot only 3-of-11 from the field. Jaron Nash chipped in 14 points and Alonzo Traylor 10 off the bench, but that pair combined for nine of the program's 17 turnovers as well.
Huff, who has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and currently ranks seventh on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,647 points, is one of the top scorers in the nation at the moment with his 21.0 ppg. Not only can he put the ball in the basket, he's also the one who is around to collect the misses, sporting 7.2 rpg to pace the program in that department as well. Unfortunately, North Dakota is being beaten on the glass by 5.1 rpg, even with Nash (12.4 ppg) contributing 5.0 rpg of his own.
Even with 52.2 percent shooting from the field in the first half, the Grizzlies were far from dominant against Portland State, but at least the team didn't lose ground with just seven field goals after intermission. Unfortunately, having to play an extra 15 minutes did not agree with Montana as it suffered the loss on the road. Jordan Gregory tallied a game-high 25 points, Kareem Jamar added 19 and Keron DeShields 17 points in the setback at the Stott Center.
The most consistent scorer for the Grizzlies thus far, Jamar is pouring in 18.5 ppg, having scored in double figures in all 13 outings for the program. He is also tops on the unit with 5.9 rpg and a total of 60 assists, making him the rare performer who is capable of leading his team in all three major categories. Gregory and DeShields lend a hand in the scoring department with 14.5 and 12.9 ppg, respectively, but still Montana is outscoring opponents by just 0.4 ppg.
With a talented scorer like Huff, North Dakota should never be counted out, but the Grizzlies just seem to have better offensive balance these days, not to mention the advantage of playing at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 74, North Dakota 68
01/16 10:19:35 ET