Idaho State (4-14) at Montana State (8-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 26, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthington Arena (7,250) -- Bozeman, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: ISU 3-3, MSU 7-2. Away Record: ISU 1-8, MSU 1-7. Neutral Record: ISU 0-3, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: ISU 3-6, MSU 5-4. Series Record: Montana State leads, 101-80.
GAME NOTES: The Montana State Bobcats will try to capture their third straight victory on Saturday night when they host the Idaho State Bengals at Worthington Arena in a Big Sky Conference clash.
Idaho State's season has been a struggle from start to finish, as it currently sits with a 4-14 record, which includes a 3-6 mark in conference play. The Bengals appeared to have turned the corner a few weeks back, as they strung together wins in three of four games, but since then they have fallen back with two straight losses, most recently dropping a 70-51 decision at Montana on Thursday.
After an atrocious 2-7 start, Montana State has been able to right the ship in the past month with wins in six of its past eight games to creep closer to .500 at 8-9. The Bobcats' current homestand has been very kind to them, the team defeating Southern Utah (76-68) and first-place Weber State (79-74) to improve to 5-4 in league play.
Montana State leads the long-standing series with Idaho State, 101-80. The teams split the season series in 2011-12, with each winning on the road.
The Bengals actually led Montana 31-29 at the half, but they were thoroughly outgunned after intermission in eventually falling by 19 points. Idaho State shot only 38.6 percent from the field in the setback, with Nevelj Walters (12 points) and Melvin Morgan (10 points) serving as the lone players to score in double figures. ISU's offensive output has been an issue all season long, as it shoots just 38.5 percent from the field, including 29 percent from 3-point range. Not only does its scoring offense (51.3 ppg) rank last in the Big Sky, but the team ranks only above Howard (51.8 ppg) and Grambling (48.4 ppg) in all of Division I. Morgan (12.1 ppg) and Chris Hansen (10.9 ppg) are the top scorers, but neither shoots greater than 37 percent from the floor. Tomas Sanchez (10.8 ppg) fares a little better at 47.5 percent, and adds a team-high 3.5 apg to his stat line.
The Bobcats were able to use a strong second half to lift themselves to a five-point upset victory over Weber State the last time out. Although they were outshot from the field, 50 percent to 44.6 percent, they won the turnover battle, 16-7, and made a lasting mark at the foul line by draining 24-of-29 attempts (.828). Xavier Blount and Antonio Biglow scored 18 points apiece, Christian Moon went for 16, and Paul Egwuonwu tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Montana State's mediocrity in the standings is perfectly reflected in its numbers, as it scores the second-most points in the conference (73.4 ppg) but also allows nearly as many points at the other end (73.1 ppg). Moon has given the lineup a huge boost since returning from injury, netting 15.3 ppg on 51.2 percent shooting in nine games. Blount (12.0 ppg) and Biglow (11.6 ppg) also average double figures, while Jamie Stewart (9.4 ppg), Flavien Davis (9.4 ppg), Egwuonwu (8.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Calen Coleman (8.2 ppg) are all on the cusp of joining the ranks.
Idaho State may be able to score more points than it is used to against a vulnerable Montana State squad, but it won't nearly be enough to take down the Bobcats who continue to improve as the season progresses.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 76, Idaho State 61
01/26 10:35:03 ET