Northern Colorado (13-17) at Montana (23-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 15, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dahlberg Arena (7,321) -- Missoula, Montana. Television:
None. Home Record: Northern Colorado 8-5, Montana 19-1. Away Record: Northern
Colorado 4-12, Montana 10-5. Neutral Record: Northern Colorado 1-0, Montana
0-0. Conference Record: Northern Colorado 10-10, Montana 19-1. Series Record:
Montana leads, 15-5.
GAMES NOTES: The regular season champion Montana Grizzlies will try to collect
the Big Sky Tournament crown again with their first challenge being a
semifinal bout with the fifth-seed Northern Colorado Bears at Dahlberg Arena.
Whichever team comes out on top in this contest will square off with either
second-seed Weber State or third-seed North Dakota in Saturday's championship
Northern Colorado earned a convincing 69-56 win over Montana State in its
first round matchup Thursday. The win was the fourth straight and seventh in
the last nine games for the Bears who are still just 13-17 overall. Northern
Colorado is looking for its first return to the title game since taking the
conference crown in 2011.
A pair of losses to conference rival Weber State and Davidson during
BracketBusters weekend were the only two setbacks for Montana since mid-
December. The Grizzlies are on a four-game winning streak as they open up
postseason play after having collected their second straight Big Sky regular
season crown with a record of 19-1 in league play.
Just like they did against all but one team in the conference this season, the
Grizzlies swept the Bears this year to improve their all-time series lead to
Led by a game-high 21 points from Tate Unruh the Bears shot 48.8 percent from
the field to post the 14-point victory over Montana State. The Bears had a
rather sizable edge on the glass in the game, 30-18, while also outscoring the
Bobcats, 23-9, from the free-throw line.
Northern Colorado doesn't struggle much on the offensive end. The Bears are
netting 70.9 points per game this season while connecting on 46.7 percent of
their shots from the field. However the Bears couple that offensive
performance with some lackluster efforts on defense. Opponents are scoring
70.4 points per game against the Bears on 45.2 percent shooting. Unruh (13.8
ppg) is the lead scorer for a roster that features three double digit scorers.
Derrick Barden (13.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg) shoots at a 55 percent clip and is one of
the better rebounders in the league, while Tevin Svihovec (12.1 ppg, 3.2 apg)
pairs nicely with Unruh in the backcourt.
Montana had to get a win in last Saturday's regular-season finale to guarantee
the regular-season crown. The Grizzlies did just that as they held off
Northern Arizona in a 63-50 victory. The key was the difference in play in the
second half as the Grizzlies hit 52.2 percent from the field in the final 20
minutes while holding the Lumberjacks to just six field goals.
Another big takeaway from the finale was the return of Will Cherry (13.3 ppg,
4.2 apg). The 6-foot-1 guard had been out since the Davidson game with a
broken right foot but came back to score a team-high 14 points against
Northern Arizona. Cherry's injury was bad enough but the Grizzlies already
lost Mathias Ward (14.8 ppg) in mid-February with a foot injury. Kareem Jamar
(14.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.1 apg) has had to carry the team by himself at times
this season and was named Big Sky MVP for his efforts. As a team the Grizzlies
are second in the league in points scored (71.3 pg) and field-goal percentage
There is one team in the Big Sky that has given Montana trouble this season
and Northern Colorado is not that squad. With a healthy Cherry the Grizzlies
will be too much for the Bears, and advance to the final.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana 74, Northern Colorado 65
03/15 10:34:07 ET
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