Southern Utah (11-18) at North Dakota (14-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Betty Engelstad Sioux Center (3,300) -- Grand Forks, North Dakota. Television: None. Home Record: Southern Utah 9-5, UND 8-5. Away Record: Southern Utah 2-11, UND 6-10. Neutral Record: Southern Utah 0-2, UND 0-0. Conference Record: Southern Utah 8-11, UND 11-8. Series Record: Southern Utah leads, 1-0.
GAMES NOTES: In the regular-season finale the Southern Utah Thunderbirds will take on North Dakota in a Big Sky Conference tussle at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Saturday afternoon.
The Thunderbirds are really struggling down the stretch as a 66-58 setback against Northern Colorado was their sixth loss in the last seven games. The Thunderbirds are now just 11-18 overall and 8-11 in league action but they remain alive in their quest for a Big Sky Conference Tournament bid. Southern Utah is tied with Northern Arizona and Sacramento State for the two final spots in the seven-team field.
North Dakota already has its tournament fate sealed. With an 11-8 record in league action North Dakota has secured the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big Sky Tournament. The team has won three of its last four games as it enters the regular-season finale.
When these teams met in December it was not only the first meeting between them as league foes but the first meeting all-time. Southern Utah secured a 79-67 win in that historic matchup.
Southern Utah was downed by Northern Colorado, 66-58, on Thursday night. Jackson Stevenett poured in a game-high 25 points in the contest but no other player got into double figures for the Thunderbirds, who shot just 41.7 percent from the field.
Stevenett (18.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Damon Heuir (15.9 ppg) have led the Thunderbirds this season as not only one of the better scoring tandems in the conference but the only players on the roster putting in more than seven points per game. The pair rank second and third, respectively in the conference in scoring but Heuir's four-point effort last time out was the third time in the last five games he has failed to score more than 10 points. As a team the Thunderbirds are the second worst shooting team in the Big Sky (.414) which has given them plenty of opportunities on the glass. Luckily Southern Utah leads the Big Sky in rebounds (37.3 pg).
In its most recent outing North Dakota took home a 78-74 win against Eastern Washington. North Dakota led by as many as 14 points in the game and never trailed en route to the four-point victory. The key for North Dakota was its 20-8 edge in points off turnovers.
Troy Huff (19.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg) is one of the better interior players in the conference. Although he does not qualify to fit in among league leaders after missing eight games this season, if he did, Huff would lead the league in scoring and be ranked among the top five players in blocks and rebounds as well. Aaron Anderson (14.0 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Jamal Webb (9.2 ppg, 4.0 apg) are a solid tandem in the backcourt as both scorers and distributors. Despite Huff's efforts North Dakota is still scoring just 67.1 points per game which is the third worst mark in the conference.
All the motivation in this game is on Southern Utah's side as it desperately needs a win to really have a chance at the Big Sky Tournament. Expect the Thunderbirds to use that motivation and to ride Stevenett and Heuir once again to a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Utah 70, North Dakota 67
03/09 10:46:06 ET