Montana (12-10) at North Dakota (10-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 15, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Betty Engelstad Sioux Center (3,300) -- Grand Forks, North Dakota. Television: None. Home Record: Montana 7-3, UND 8-3. Away Record: Montana 5-7, UND 2-7. Neutral Record: Montana 0-0, UND 0-3. Conference Record: Montana 7-6, UND 7-6. Series Record: Montana leads, 10-5.
GAME NOTES: North Dakota will close out a two-game homestand at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Montana Grizzlies in a Big Sky Conference showdown.
Montana had been surging up the standings with four straight victories prior to its most recent contest, which it dropped in heartbreaking fashion at Northern Colorado on Thursday night, 89-86 in overtime. The Grizzlies are now 12-10 overall this season, including 7-6 in the Big Sky.
North Dakota returned home from a four-game homestand on Thursday night only to fall on the wrong end of a 78-70 decision versus Montana. It has lost three of its past four matchups to slip to 10-13 overall and 7-6 in conference action.
Montana downed North Dakota on its home floor back on Jan. 16, 84-71, to extend its lead in the all-time series to 10-5.
The Grizzlies trailed Northern Colorado by eight midway through the second half only to climb back and tie the game and force overtime on a Mike Weisner 3-pointer with 1:07 left in regulation, but down by three in the waning seconds of overtime, they could not connect on another dramatic 3-pointer. They shot 46.6 percent from the field and knocked down 91.7 percent of their 24 free-throw tries, but they simply couldn't keep pace with a red-hot Northern Colorado, which shot 60 percent from the field. Kareem Jamar tallied 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Keron DeShields was hot on his heels with 20 points and Jordan Gregory and Weisner finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
On the season, Montana shoots a high percentage from the field (.475) and allows opponents similar success (.479), although it still owns a +1.2 scoring margin by forcing two more turnovers per game than it commits. Jamar is not only an outstanding scorer with 19.6 ppg but he also puts up 5.7 rpg and 4.4 apg. Gregory (14.2 ppg) and DeShields (13.2 ppg) are regular contributors as well.
North Dakota faced a 20-point deficit with under 15 minutes to play in its contest earlier in the week, and while it was able to make things interesting by cutting the lead to just three later in the frame, it would get no closer. It was outshot from the field on the evening, 52.4 percent to 43.3 percent, and shoot a mere 7-of-15 from the free-throw line compared to 28-of-32 for Montana State. Aaron Anderson connected on 5-of-8 from 3-point range on his way to 20 points, while Troy Huff was stellar as well with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The squad has remained competitive this season thanks to a strong offensive attack, as it ranks near the top of the Big Sky in both field goal percentage (.460) and scoring offense (73.7 ppg), although its potential has been severely limited by a poor scoring defense (74.3 ppg). Huff is on his way to an All-Conference selection at season's end with 19.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 2.3 spg. Jaron Nash shoots 53.2 percent from the field for 11.0 ppg, and Anderson also nets 11.0 ppg while shooting 35-of-76 from beyond the arc (.461).
Montana put up a valiant effort on the road earlier in the week and has held its own away from home this season (5-7), so bouncing back against an up-and- down North Dakota squad in this one is certainly in the cards.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 75, North Dakota 71
02/15 10:40:34 ET