Northern Colorado (10-3) at Montana State (8-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 16, 9:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthington Arena (7,250) -- Bozeman, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: UNC 9-0, MSU 5-1. Away Record: UNC 1-3, MSU 3-4. Neutral Record: UNC 0-0, MSU 0-2. Conference Record: UNC 4-0, MSU 3-1. Series Record: Montana State leads, 34-20.
GAME NOTES: The top team in the Big Sky Conference hits the road tonight, as the Northern Colorado Bears pay a visit to the Montana State Bobcats at Worthington Arena.
In addition to being all alone in first place in the league standings with a record of 4-0, the Bears are also the last squad in the Big Sky to play a conference road game. The team just spent four straight games at home, running through the likes of North Dakota, Southern Utah, Weber State and, last Saturday, Idaho State by a score of 82-75.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats are one of three programs entering play on Thursday tied for second place in the Big Sky, the other two being Weber State and Northern Arizona. The team opened league action with three straight victories before being downed by Eastern Washington on the road last Saturday in a 77-72 final.
The Bobcats lead the all-time series by a count of 34-20, and that includes a 13-7 edge in Bozeman.
In a game that featured six ties and 15 lead changes, the Bears allowed visiting Idaho State to shoot an impressive 56.3 percent from the field, but thanks to a 24-14 advantage at the free-throw line UNC was able to pull through. Tim Huskisson scored 22 points, Tate Unruh 21, while Dominique Lee pitched in with 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Derrick Barden came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he dropped in 11 points for the hosts.
As one of only two players to have started every game for the Bears, Barden leads the team in scoring with 13.8 ppg as he shoots just as well from the floor (.578) as he does at the free-throw line. Barden is also first on the glass with slightly more than nine rebounds per contest, helping to give UNC a rebounding advantage of five per game over the competition. That rebounding edge has also helped the program to secure a significant scoring advantage over foes as well, currently at 11.2 ppg.
Trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Bobcats refused to go away versus Eastern Washington and even led by as many as 11 points in the second half before suffered the five-point setback to the Eagles in Cheney. Flavien Davis not only led MSU with 17 points, he also logged the very first double-double of his career as he cleared 10 rebounds. Calen Coleman posted 12 points for the visitors, while Paul Egwuonwu, Michael Dison and Antonio Biglow all tallied 10 points as well.
At home the Bobcats have been particularly lethal on offense, generating 81.3 ppg on the strength of 52.5 percent shooting from the floor. Davis checks in with 12.2 ppg to lead the squad in those six home dates, even though he came off the bench in four of them. Reserve Stephan Holm has accounted for 11.2 ppg in Bozeman and Egwuonwu produces 9.8 ppg to go along with a team-best 7.3 rpg in those particular meetings.
With little experience and success on the road so far this season, the Bears have to expect a hostile environment and an opponent that is aiming to tighten up the standings in the Big Sky moving forward.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 69, Northern Colorado 66
01/16 10:19:39 ET