Northern Arizona (8-9) at Northern Colorado (11-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 23, 9:05 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion (2,992) -- Greeley, Colorado. Television: None. Home Record: NAU 5-1, UNC 9-0. Away Record: NAU 3-6, UNC 2-4. Neutral Record: NAU 0-2, UNC 0-0. Conference Record: NAU 5-1, UNC 5-1. Series Record: Northern Colorado leads, 10-8.
GAME NOTES: Two of the Big Sky Conference's best match up on Thursday night when the Northern Colorado Bears welcome the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks to Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
NAU's season did not start off very well, as it won just three of its 11 non- conference bouts, but it has turned things around in a hurry in Big Sky action, going 5-1. The Lumberjacks are currently winners of four straight games, most recently downing Portland State at home on Saturday, 77-56.
Northern Colorado's success has been sustained throughout the season, as it sports a stellar 11-4 overall record, including a 5-1 ledger in the league. The Bears bested Montana in their latest contest in a 84-73 road victory, and now they return to Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion where they've gone unbeaten in nine games.
The Bears hold a 10-8 advantage over the Lumberjacks in the all-time series. The teams split two games last season, with the home side winning each bout.
After playing the first half to a 31-31 tie last Saturday against Portland State, NAU pulled away in the second stanza en route to a convincing 21-point victory. It shot a lofty 58.9 percent from the floor and were paced by the efforts of Max Jacobsen, who poured in 19 points on 8-of-11 from the field. Kris Yanku put up 17 points in a reserve role, while Quinton Upshur and Gaellan Bewernick scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
On the season, the Lumberjacks shoot 45.2 percent from the field but for just 68.1 ppg, but luckily their modest offense is enough to support them thanks to a stellar scoring defense (67.3 ppg). Upshur (14.6 ppg) and Jacobsen (14.1 ppg) are the top scorers, with Upshur having drained 35 3-pointers at a 35- percent clip and Jacobsen shooting just shy of 60 percent overall. Aaseem Dixon (13.1 ppg) and Bewernick (8.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are also relied on for consistent contributions.
The Bears trailed Montana earlier in the second half of their latest game but were able to grab control of the contest thanks to an 18-4 run. They outpaced the Grizzlies from the field in the high-scoring affair, 58 percent to 53.2 percent, and owned a commanding 31-15 advantage in the rebounding battle. Derrick Barden and Tate Unruh led the way with 20 points apiece, combining to shoot 15-of-22 from the floor. Tevin Svihovec and Dominique Lee both came off the bench to net 12 and 10 points, respectively.
As indicated by its strong record, Northern Colorado has shined on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 49.6 percent from the field for 74.8 ppg while allowing just 65.3 ppg on 43.1 percent shooting for a Big Sky-best +9.5 scoring margin. It also boasts the league's best rebounding margin at +5.5. Barden leads the charge from the frontcourt with 13.6 ppg (on 57.1 percent shooting) and 8.5 rpg. Unruh (12.6 ppg) shoots 38.4 percent from 3-point range and 90.3 percent from the foul line, while Tim Huskisson (11.1 ppg) and Svihovec (10.8 ppg) also net in double figures.
NAU has turned things around of late and appears as though it'll be in the thick of the Big Sky race all season long, but Northern Colorado hasn't skipped a beat at home and should be able to keep its success in Greeley alive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Colorado 76, Northern Arizona 71
01/23 10:19:34 ET