Montana State (2-5) at Northern Arizona (3-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, December 17, 8:35 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walkup Skydome (11,230) -- Flagstaff, Arizona.
Television: FSN-AZ+, FCS. Home Record: Montana State 2-2, NAU 1-1. Away
Record: Montana State 0-3, NAU 1-3. Neutral Record: Montana State 0-0, NAU
1-1. Conference Record: Montana State 0-0, NAU 0-0. Series Record: NAU leads,
GAMES NOTES: Both the Montana State Bobcats and the Northern Arizona
Lumberjacks will play their Big Sky Conference opener on Monday when the two
teams collide at Walkup Skydome.
The Bobcats have struggled in the early going and are coming into this game
with an overall record of 2-5. Montana State did manage to earn a win last
time out by dropping NAIA foe Montana Tech. The win capped off a three-game
homestand for the Bobcats and ended a four-game losing streak. Last year
Montana State was a team in the middle of the pack in the Big Sky as it
finished with a record of 7-9. The Bobcats face another Big Sky opponent on
the road in their next game against Sacramento State.
Northern Arizona should be plenty rested for this matchup as the Lumberjacks
have been off the court since a 92-86 loss in overtime to Loyola Marymount on
Dec. 5. That setback dropped the Lumberjacks to 3-5 overall and thwarted the
team's attempt to earn back-to-back wins for the first time this year. Getting
back to league play may not be a recipe for a success for Northern Arizona as
the Lumberjacks came in dead last in the conference last season with a record
of just 1-15. Northern Arizona will face Montana at home in its next contest.
Led by 15 points from Jamie Stewart, Montana State was easily able to take
down Montana Tech in its last time out. The Bobcats forced 26 turnovers,
including 18 on steals and netted 51.6 percent of their shots from the floor.
Stewart was especially active in the game hitting 6-of-9 shots from the field,
collecting six rebounds and an assist. Xavier Blount also scored in double
figures for the fifth straight game with 13 points.
Stewart and Blount have really established themselves as the go-to players for
Montana State recently. Blount (14.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) missed the first two games
of the season but has been strong in the five games he has played. Stewart
(11.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) had a slow start but has scored in double figures in the
last three games including a 22-point effort against San Jose State. Antonio
Biglow (12.6 ppg, 3.6 apg) is also scoring in double figures, while serving as
the lead facilitator. However, Biglow needs to improve on his efficiency as he
hits on only 37.2 percent of his shots from the field. As a team Montana State
is scoring a healthy 72.9 points per game on just 40.3 percent shooting but is
getting burned for 75.3 points, while teams shoot at a 49.0 percent clip.
Northern Arizona trailed by as many as 18 points against Loyola Marymount but
clawed its way back by shooting 63.0 percent from the field in the second half
to earn a 77-75 lead with just over two minutes remaining. After the Lions
tied the game 77-77 on a pair of free throws, Gabe Rogers nailed a 3-pointer
to put Northern Arizona up 80-77. However Anthony Ireland put in a 3-pointer
for the Lions on the next possession and the game went to overtime. The Lions
scored the first five points of overtime and the Lumberjacks were unable to
After such a disastrous season last year, Northern Arizona desperately needed
an infusion of new talent and the Lumberjacks were fortunate enough to get
that in Dewayne Russell. The freshman guard is the seventh highest scoring
rookie in the country this season as he puts in 17.1 points per game. Russell
is also the lead facilitator (3.9 apg). Rogers (16.4 ppg) was a holdover from
last season when he also scored in double figures. Rogers is scoring at a high
level and has put in 20 or more points three times this season but has needed
a large number of shots to do so as he connects on only 32.4 percent of his
field goal attempts. There is a lack of scoring options after those two though
with no other player scoring more than seven points per game. Limited scoring
options along with weak defense has lead the Lumberjacks to be outscored by
nearly 10 points per game as Northern Arizona allows 76.8 points per game.
Both of these teams rely heavily on a pair of contributors meaning that it
will really come down to which team has the superior supporting cast. Players
like Casen Coleman (9.1 ppg) and Flavien Davis (8.7 ppg) may not impress with
their numbers but give Montana State more versatility on both ends.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 70, Northern Arizona 62
12/17 10:39:40 ET
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