North Dakota State (15-3) vs. IUPUI (6-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 17, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,165) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: None. Home Record: NDSU 8-0, IUPUI 4-3. Away Record: NDSU 5-3, IUPUI 1-9. Neutral Record: NDSU 2-0, IUPUI 1-2. Conference Record: NDSU 6-0, IUPUI 1-5. Series Record: IUPUI leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: The North Dakota State Bison attempt to continue their reign atop the Summit League on Thursday night when they do battle with the IUPUI Jaguars at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
North Dakota State's season has been nothing short of spectacular, as it has lost just three of its 18 games, and at 6-0 in the Summit League, it is tied with Western Illinois for first place. Since dropping a tough road game against nationally-ranked Minnesota on Dec. 11 (70-57), it has ripped off a season-high seven straight wins.
The Bison's most recent triumph came in a home bout against Oakland last Saturday, where they got out to a 12-point halftime lead and went on to post the 73-65 win. They shot a lofty 60.5 percent from the floor, including 11- of-20 from 3-point range, which helped make up for a poor night from the foul line (10-of-22) and 19 turnovers. TrayVonn Wright led the way with 20 points while also blocking five shots. Lawrence Alexander tallied 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Marshall Bjorklund added 15 points, and Taylor Braun chipped in with 11.
It has been largely a struggle this season for IUPUI, which is just 6-14, which includes only one win in six conference matchups. Since winning back-to- back games in late December, it has been plummeting in the standings thanks to four straight losses.
The Jaguars' last tilt was on Jan. 10 when they traveled to Nebraska Omaha and were saddled with a 90-79 loss. They shot 47.6 percent from the field and drained 10 3-pointers, but they ultimately couldn't keep up with the Mavericks, who made more than 62 percent of their field goal attempts. Donovan Gibbs shined despite the setback, recording his second double-double of the year with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Sean Esposito shot 5-of-10 from beyond the arc on his way to 20 points, and Jordan Shanklin netted 15 points.
IUPUI has won five of the last six meetings with NDSU to take a 7-3 lead in the all-time series.
NDSU has been spectacular at both ends of the floor this season. Not only does the team drain a conference-best 48.8 percent of its field goal attempts for 71.1 ppg, but it also allows opponents to net just 57.4 ppg (second-best in the Summit). Braun is the league's best 3-point shooter, making 34-of-68 (.500) from long range en route to a team-best 15.2 ppg. Bjorklund (13.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Alexander (10.4 ppg) have been impressive, and Mike Felt (9.1 ppg) is also a threat from beyond the arc, making 43 triples at a 38.1 percent clip.
It's not a surprise that IUPUI sports a minus-7.4 scoring margin, and while the offense has shown some promise (.440 FG percentage, 68.5 ppg), it hasn't been able to stop many teams at the defensive end of the court, as it permits an average of 75.9 ppg. The Jaguars are playing shorthanded, as top scorer John Hart (14.2 ppg) was recently declared ineligible, and Ian Chiles (10.3 ppg) has played in just four games due to a toe injury. In their absences, Mitchell Patton has become the primary option, scoring 12.4 ppg on 58.8 percent shooting, and Gibbs (9.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has also stepped up his play.
Although this is technically a neutral-site affair, IUPUI will have the clear geographical advantage playing right down the road from its campus. Still, it has been playing poorly of late, while NDSU has played like the Summit League's best team, meaning the Bison should have no problem barreling over the Jaguars.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 77, IUPUI 60
01/17 10:36:53 ET