GRAND FORKS, N.D. - For the second consecutive Saturday, North Dakota has a chance to move two games over .500 in Big Sky play for the first time this season. Northern Arizona will be the opponent as the Lumberjacks visit Grand Forks for the first time in program history. Tipoff is at 2:05 p.m.
UND VS. NORTHERN ARIZONA SERIES
All-time: UND leads 1-0
In Grand Forks: First Meeting
Division I: UND leads 1-0
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Northern Arizona: 1-0
Northern Arizona Head Coach Jack Murphy vs. UND: 0-1
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
Television: MidCo Sports Network (Ch. 27/622 HD) or Fox College Sports Central (DirecTV Ch. 626)
Radio: 1440 AM (Grand Forks) or iHeart Radio App
Live Audio Stream: www.UNDSports.com (free)
Live Video: www.BigSkyTV.org (free)
Live Stats: www.UNDSports.com (free)
Live Chat: www.UNDSports.com (free)
IN THE PAINT...
• UND put itself in that position with a 49-48 victory over Sacramento State on Thursday that improved the squad’s league record to 8-7, while the Hornest fell to 7-8 in Big Sky play.
• UND broke a three-way tie with Sac State and Montana State, who also lost on Thursday, and is now tied for third with Southern Utah in the Big Sky standings. The Thunderbirds were also a victim on the road, falling at Portland State by 21 (90-69).
• The 49 points scored in the win over Sac State were the fewest scored by UND in a victory during the Brian Jones era. Those were also the fewest scored in a win by a UND squad since the 1990-91 season (49-28 victory over North Dakota State; Jan. 26, 1991).
• Junior Troy Huff registered his fourth double-double of the season (16 games) and ninth of his career, pacing the team with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
• Huff was the only UND player to reach double figures in a game that saw UND shoot just 34.5 percent from the field, but hold Sac State to an even lower percentage at 33.3. UND opened the game going 7-for-11 from the field, but converted only 12-of-44 FGs after that.
• Huff’s average took a slight dip to 19.3 ppg and he now ranks second in scoring in Big Sky games after a 26-point outing by Southern Utah’s Jackson Stevenett moved him into the top spot (19.5 ppg).
• Huff’s 10 boards helped UND hold a 43-35 edge on the glass. That total was one shy of the team’s season high of 44 established in the win over Eastern Washington on Jan. 17.
• The win over the Hornets snapped a four-game losing streak on Valentine’s Day for UND, who improved to 16-13 on the Americanized Holiday.
• After opening the season 1-4 in Big Sky play, UND has won seven of its last 10 league games. Currently tied for third, UND can create a three-game cushion between third and eight-place in the league standings by defeating Northern Arizona on Saturday.
• The Lumberjacks enter this game at 6-9 in league play and are currently tied for seventh with Northern Colorado - a team that beat NAU 76-68 on Thursday. The top seven teams qualify for the Big Sky Tournament, which will be hosted by the regular season champion.
• Staying in the hunt for a Big Sky Tournament berth along with revenge will both come into play for Northern Arizona on Saturday.
• The revenge factor is due to letting a 22-point lead slip away at home to UND in what was the first meeting between the two teams on the hardwood.
• Huff made a putback with three seconds remaining to cement the comeback victory and give him a team-high 26 points. His efforts had to counteract a 35-point outburst by NAU senior Gabe Rogers, who currently leads all Big Sky scorers in overall games at 17.4 ppg.
• The 35 points are the msot scored by a Big Sky player this season. Rogers is third in league scoring at 19.2 ppg.
• Junior Jamal Webb finished the Sac State game with five assists to move into fifth on UND’s all-time charts in that category with 333 for his career. He is averaging 5.0 apg over his last five outings.
• Webb is also inching towards the top spot on UND’s all-time list for career steals. He currently sits second with 163, which is 15 behind the record of 178 held by Scott Guldseth (1990-93). Huff has 125 steals, which puts him fourth on the all-time charts.
• Webb has 54 steals this season, which is tied for the fifth most in a single season at UND. His average of 2.5 spg is currently tops in the Big Sky and 17th in the NCAA.
• After leapfrogging his way into UND’s Top 20 scoring list, Huff held steady with for the first time since joining the club on Jan. 17 with his 13-point outing at Sac State. He did push his career total to 1,168 points.
• Redshirt freshman Shane Benton logged a career-high 30 minutes in the win over Sac State and contributed four of UND’s 13 bench points in the win over the Hornets.
• Over the last three games, Benton has scored 25 points, which are three more than he had combined in his first 18 collegiate games. He had a then career-high seven in the win over Northern Arizona on Jan. 26.
• Sophomore Lenny Antwi chipped in with the other nine after drilling a trio of 3-pointers (five attempts). Antwi also had nine points in the first meeting with Northern Arizona - also all on 3-pointers.
• After scoring nine points in only six minutes of action (foul trouble) at Montana State on Thursday, junior Brandon Brekke returned to the starting lineup for the next game at Montana and logged 25 minutes (5 pts/7 rebs).
• Brekke has equaled his season-high in rebounds with seven in the past two games (both starts). He is averaging 6.6 ppg and 4.8 rpg in 16 mpg since his return (five games). Brekke missed 11 games total after suffering a concussion in the loss to North Dakota State (Dec. 9). He did play five minutes in a game vs. Bowling Green (Dec. 29) before symptoms returned.
• Junior Josh Schuler, who had started 20 straight games since coming off the bench in the season opener at K-State, has missed the last three games with back spasms. His status is day-to-day. Schuler had played in all 87 games of his UND career up to the Montana State game on Feb. 7 .
• With the win over Idaho State on Feb. 2, head coach Brian Jones surpassed former NBA coaching legend Bill Fitch for fourth place on the all-time career wins list at UND. Fitch went 94-45 from 1963-67 and Jones now has 97 career wins.
MORE IN THE PAINT
• UND improved to 8-4 at home with its home win over Sac State on Valentine’s Day. UND went 13-1 at home during the 2011-12 season.
• UND suffered another injury to key contributor as senior captain Doug Archer went down in practice prior to the Weber State (Jan. 31) contest. He has missed five straight games. His status is also day-to-day.
• The Big Sky is the third conference that UND has been affiliated with since the program began in 1904. At the Division II level, UND was a member of the North Central Conference from 1922 to 2008. After spending one season as an independent during its first season of Division I play in 2008-09, UND spent the next three seasons in the Great West Conference.
• With the addition of the Thunderbirds and UND, the Big Sky basketball playing members grew to 11 this season. Southern Utah played last season in the Summit League, while UND wrapped up a three-year run in the Great West Conference.
• The top seven teams from the regular season will all advance to the Big Sky Conference Tournament where, if they do advance, UND would have a crack at earning its first NCAA Tournament berth. UND won the GWC Tournament in 2011 and 2012 anda advanced to the CIT Postseason Tournament both seasons.
• The Big Sky Tournament will be held at the home venue of the No. 1 seed and regular-season champion.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: NORTHERN ARIZONA
• Head coach Jack Murphy and his Lumberjacks enter Saturday’s game two behind UND in the Big Sky standings after falling to Northern Colorado 76-68 on Thursday.
• Murphy is in his first season guiding the NAU program after leaving his post as an assistant coach at Memphis to return to his native state. NAU is 9-16 overall and 6-9 in league play in Murphy’s first season.
• Senior guard Gabe Rogers has been carrying his team of late as he leads all Big Sky scorers with a 17.4 ppg average in overall games. Rogers had 23 in the loss to the Bears.
• Rogers dropped in a Big Sky-best 35 points earlier this season in an 81-79 loss to UND on Jan. 26. Rogers got off to a scorching hot start and had his team ahead by 22 points before the Green and White staged a furious comeback in the first hardwood tilt between the teams.
• Rogers is averaging 19.2 ppg in Big Sky games (third overall) and has scored 20-plus in seven of his last eight games.
• Classmate Stallon Saldivar registered a triple double in the overtime win at home against Eastern Washington (Feb .9), scoring 13 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists.
• Saldivar leads the Big Sky in assists (5.9/g) in league games and ranks second overall (4.8 apg).
• Freshman DeWayne Russell is the only other Lumberjack scoring in double figures (14.5 ppg). He has 20 starts to his credit, but has been coming off the bench in the last four games. UND held Russell to just seven points in 37 minutes of action in the first meeting.
• Forward Gaellen Bewernick was the only other Lumberjack to reach double figures in the first meeting, scoring 11 points. NAU led 47-36 at the break, but UND made 13 of its first 14 field goal attempts to storm ahead.
• NAU drew a trip to Hawaii for the annual ESPN BracketBusters event. UND lost to the Rainbow Warriors 71-66 on Nov. 23.
LAST TIME OUT
North Dakota 49, Sacramento State 48 (Feb. 14) • Grand Forks, N.D.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - North Dakota withstood a late rally by Sacramento State as a desperation 3-pointer by John Dickson was off the mark at the buzzer, allowing the home team to escape with a 49-48 victory over the Hornets on Thursday in Big Sky action.
UND (11-13, 8-7 BSC) ended both halves with substantial field goal droughts, but had built just enough of lead late in the second half to keep Sac State (12-11, 7-8 BSC) from picking up a league road win at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Junior Troy Huff registered his fourth double-double of the season to lead UND with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The UND defense held the Hornets to just a 33 percent (18-for-54) field goal clip, which was a season-low by a Division I opponent.
HUFF'S RISING IN 1,000-POINT CLUB, ANDERSON IS CLOSING IN
A 3-pointer from the top of the key vs. Eastern Washington on Jan. 17 moved junior Troy Huff into an elite club in the history of North Dakota basketball. Huff’s trey at the 13-minute of the second half brought his career total to 1,002 points as he became the 32nd UND player and just ninth junior to reach that milestone. Patrick Mitchell - a captain on last year’s squad - was the last UND player to add his name to this list. Mitchell finished his career with 1,136 points and stands in 21st now. Huff surpassed Mitchell with his 23-point outing at Montana and has moved up 12 spots to 20th (1,168) in the last seven games.
At some point over the next season and a half, Huff will likely have a couple of his classmates join him. Aaron Anderson is the next in line to reach the milestone (924 career points) and if his season average holds up (currently 13.0 ppg), he could do so by the end of the 2012-13 season. UND has never had two players reach the 1,000-point plateau in the same season.
Junior Troy Huff is enjoying the best scoring season of his career, averaging 18.5 ppg in overall games and 19.3 ppg in Big Sky play. He qualifies for the scoring title in Big Sky play since he has played in 14 of UND’s 15 league tilts, but he’ll need to play in 75 percent of UND’s games to qualify for the overall title. The same standards apply for the NCAA where he would rank in the top 35 nationally in scoring right now if he had not missed eight games due to a broken jaw. With six regular season games remaining and a possible Big Sky Tournament berth, Huff could reach 75 percent of games played if UND were to make at least a two-game run in the postseason.
UND DRAWS OMAHA FOR BRACKETBUSTERS GAME
The North Dakota men’s basketball team added one more former North Central Conference foe to its 2012-13 schedule on Monday as ESPN officials announced that Omaha will play host to the Green and White during their annual Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters weekend. The game will take place Saturday, Feb. 23 at Omaha’s Ralston Arena. Tipoff time is set for 1 p.m.
This will be the final season of an 11-year run for the event that pits 122 NCAA Tournament hopefuls from 15 different mid-major conferences against each other. Omaha is in its second season of transition to the NCAA Division I level and first in the Summit League. The Mavericks are currently 9-18 overall and 6-8 in the Summit League, which puts them fifth in the standings of the nine-team conference. UND is currently 11-13 overall and 8-7 in its first season in the Big Sky. The 8-7 mark puts UND tied for third in the 11-team conference.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
UND has played three games this season where a 3-point attempt at the buzzer decided the outcome of that contest. The first one did not go in favor of UND as Chad White hit a contested 3-point to give South Dakota State a 71-70 victory over the Greena and White on Nov. 28. The other two nailbiters have come in league play and both times the opponent’s shot was the off the mark. The first of those was at Northern Arizona when Dewayne Russell missed a heave from just inside half court that would have given his Lumberjacks the victory on Jan. 26. The last was this past Thursday when Sac State’s John Dickson saw his 30-footer go wide right in a 49-48 loss at The Betty.
WEBB WORKING HIS WAY TO THE TOP
Junior Jamal Webb has moved into second place on UND’s career charts for steals with 54 already this season. He tops the Big Sky charts, averaging 2.5 spg. Webb is closing fast on UND’s career leader Scott Guldseth, who had 178 from 1989-93. He has 37 in 15 Big Sky games to give him 163 for his career. Webb also joined a new career top 10 recently, moving into fifth on UND’s all-time charts for assists with 328.
HUFF NETS FIRST TWO BIG SKY POW AWARDS FOR UND
Junior Troy Huff was named the Big Sky Player of the Week on New Year’s Eve after his 14-point, 12-rebound outing in the 56-53 victory over Bowling Green. He was the first UND player to receive the honor from the team’s new conference. The double-double was the sixth of his career as he played in just his second game back from a broken jaw. He picked up his second honor three weeks later after leading UND to pair of back-to-back home wins over Eastern Washington and Portland State.
WILMER CONTINUES TO PLAY WELL
Senior Mitch Wilmer has started the last 21 games for UND and is subsequently playing the best basketball of his UND career. Wilmer, who had only three starts coming into the season, is averaging 5.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 1.3 bgp for the season. He has scored 133 points this season, which is 50 more than he had in 55 career games entering the campaign. Wilmer has set or equaled his career-high in scoring four times in those 16 starts, chipping in with 11 points at South Dakota State (Nov. 28), upping that to 12 at North Dakota State (Dec. 9) before scoring 15 against Southern Utah and Northern Colorado. He added his first career double-double against the Thunderbirds in UND’s Big Sky debut by adding 11 rebounds to his point total.
WHAT’S BACK THIS SEASON
Head coach Brian Jones has four starters back and six of his top seven scorers from his 2012 GWC Tournament championship team. The seventh-year head coach will have to replace second team All-GWC performer Patrick Mitchell, who averaged 10.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg during his final season with the program. The 2011-12 squad posted a 17-15 record and earned an automatic berth to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament for the second consecutive season. UND lost at Drake, 70-64, in the opening round of postseason play.
ROSTER ROUND UP
Head coach Brian Jones has a 16-man roster, but only 11 of those players are now active for the 2012-13 season. The team was hoping for good news from the NCAA on granting Texas Tech transfer Jaron Nash a waiver to play immediately and not have to sit out this season, but the organization denied UND’s request. Houston Baptist transfer Dustin Hobaugh transferred to UND after one season with the Huskies to pursue a degree in commercial aviation. Hobaugh is sitting out the 2012-13 season and will have three left to play starting with the 2013-14 campaign. Besides Nash and Hobaugh, Jones is using redshirt seasons on junior college transer Ryan Salmonson and freshman walk-on Thomas Blake. Salmonson played two seasons at Cosumnes River Community College, while Blake prepped at St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown, Md. JUCO-transfer Alonzo Traylor played in eight of the team’s first nine, averaging 7.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg, but has been ruled academically ineligible for the second semester.
UND’s quintet of Aaron Anderson, Brandon Brekke, Troy Huff, Josh Schuler and Jamal Webb produced 65.4 percent of UND’s points in 2010-11, which was tops among any freshman class in the country. As sophomores, that unit upped that number to 70.9 percent of the team’s scoring (1,526 of 2,153). However, as sophomores, that unit had company at the top of the national charts. The Memphis sophomores, a unit UND edged out last season (63.9 percent as freshmen), produced 73.6 percent (1,923 of 2,614) and NDSU’s sophomores concluded the Bison season scoring 71.3 percent (1,564 of 2,194) of their team’s points. So far, the 2012-13 juniors, which includes the addition of JUCO-transfer Alonzo Traylor, have accounted for 72.9 (1,149 of 1,582) percent of the team’s scoring through 23 games.
Seven teams on UND’s 2011-12 docket advanced to postseason tournaments, including four to the NCAA Tournament (Kansas, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota State). UND beat two of those teams at home (Montana and South Dakota State). North Dakota State and Western Illinois both made the CBI Invitational, while GWC foe Utah Valley earned an at-large bid to join UND in the CIT Tournament.The schedule does not get any easier in 2012-13, as UND’s slate has seven more teams on it that advanced to postseason tournaments. Kansas State advanced to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Northern Iowa made the second round of the NIT. Both Montana and South Dakota State lost their first games in the NCAA Tournament. Bowling Green and Weber State joined UND in the CIT Postseason Tournament, while NDSU lost in the first round of the CBI Invitational.
UND split its four contests against Big Sky opponents in 2011-12. The Green and White defeated eventual regular season and tournament champion Montana 88-81 in overtime at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. UND also split a home-and-home series with Idaho State and lost at Sacramento State (75-64) after leading the Hornets by six at halftime.