GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- North Dakota ventures back on the road this week to take on Weber State and Idaho State in Big Sky play. The Fighting Hawks defeated both of those teams at home already this season and will look to record regular-season sweeps of the Wildcats and Bengals for the second-consecutive season.
Beating those teams on their home courts will be a tall task, however, as UND is just 1-10 in true road games this season and is still seeking its first Big Sky road win after going 6-3 in league away games during last year’s title run.
The Fighting Hawks’ next chance for that elusive road win will be Thursday against a Weber State team that is 10-1 at the Dee Events Center this season and has won five-straight overall since falling to UND on Jan. 13. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. CT.
UND VS. WEBER STATE SERIES
All-time: WSU leads 9-5
In Ogden: WSU leads 4-1
Last Meeting: UND 89, WSU 79 (Jan. 13, 2018; Grand Forks)
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Weber State: 5-9
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Rahe: 5-9
Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe vs. UND: 9-5
Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe vs. Jones: 9-5
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
Radio: 100.3 FM (GF) | 790 AM (Fargo) | Paul Ralston (pbp)
Live Stats: www.UNDSports.com
Live Stream: WatchBigSky.com | Pluto TV Ch. 235
IN THE PAINT...
• The 89-79 win over the Wildcats was UND’s fourth straight in the series. The last Big Sky team to win that many in a row against Weber State was Montana State, who achieved the feat between 1996-98.
• After losing the first eight in the all-time series with Weber State, UND has won five of the last six and junior Geno Crandall has reached double figures in each of those contests.
• That stretch included UND’s first win at the Dee Events Center in five tries, which as a 77-68 triumph last season.
• Crandall had 25 points, nine rebounds and eight assists during the 10-point win over the Wildcats earlier this year in Grand Forks.
• After starting the season 4-11, UND is 4-4 in its last eight games. The Fighting Hawks split with Montana (72-67; L) and Montana State (75-74; W) last week.
ON THE HORIZON
UND wraps up the week at Idaho State on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks are 4-1 all-time in Pocatello and have won all four Big Sky matchups with the Bengals on their home court. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. CT.
DID YOU KNOW?
Weber State has never lost four in a row to half of the Big Sky programs. Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State and Southern Utah have never won more than three-straight against the Wildcats.
The North Dakota men’s basketball program holds a 1570-1050 (.602) all-time record since Dr. George Sweetland led the first team onto the court in 1904-05. UND is 948-284 (.769) all-time when it comes to defending its home court.
The 2017-18 season is the 10th at the Division I level for the program (2008-09) and the Fighting Hawks are 148-162 in those contests. As a Big Sky member, the Fighting Hawks own a 55-46 record in its first five-plus seasons of league play, including its best showing of 14-4 during its title run last season.This is the sixth and final season for the Fighting Hawks, who will join the Summit League in 2018-19.
LAST TIME OUT
The Fighting Hawks held the advantage on league-leading Montana with just over five minutes to play, but the Grizzlies made the key plays down the stretch to register a 72-67 victory over UND this past Saturday. The Griz improved to 11-0 in league play and set a program record with their seventh-straight road win. Junior Cortez Seales led UND with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while classmate Conner Avants added his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. For UND, it was the sixth-straight loss in the series with Montana.
In each of the past six seasons, head coach Brian Jones and his staff has coached a game in their barefeet to help raise awareness for the Samaritan’s Feet cause. This year’s game took place on Feb. 3 when Montana visited for a Big Sky showdown.
For the first time since helping out the organization, the Fighting Hawks wore custom-made jerseys trimmed in orange, which is the primary color utilized by Samaritan’s Feet. Those jerseys are going to be available for purchase by fans at a later date with proceeds going to assist Samaritan’s Feet.
The nonprofit group serves and inspires hope in children by providing shoes to impoverished children throughout the world. In 2016, Jones was named the organization’s Barefoot Coach of the Year and was recognized at a special breakfast during Final Four Weekend in Houston.
The Fighting Hawks have also participated in local shoe drives each of the past six years where thousands of shoes have been distributed to members of the Grand Forks community.
This year’s event was hosted at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center for the first time. The men’s basketball program was joined by several fellow UND student-athletes along with several local high school students. The volunteers passed out shoes to those in need and also washed the feet of the children receiving the shoes. For more information and to find out ways to donate to Samaritan’s Feet, visit www.samaritansfeet.org.
Slow starts have been one of the bigger issues for the Fighting Hawks in their eight Big Sky losses so far this season. In those eight league setbacks, opponents are outscoring UND 353-245 in the first half (44.1 to 30.6). The Fighting Hawks have produced much better in the second halves of those contests, averaging 38.0 ppg after the break.
During UND’s three Big Sky victories, the Fighting Hawks are outscoring opponents 115-89 (38.3 to 29.7) in the first halves of those contests.
THE POWER OF EIGHTY
For just the third time in the past two seasons, UND dropped a contest when it scored at least 80 points after falling 94-91 in overtime Saturday at Northern Colorado. the Fighting Hawks own a 22-3 record in those contests and their first losses were against ranked opponents (100-82 vs. Arizona; NCAA Tournament and 89-83 OT loss at Gonzaga). So far this season, the Fighting Hawks are 6-2 when scoring 80-plus points with both of those losses coming in OT.
THIRTY GETS GENO INTO TOP THIRTY
Junior Geno Crandall scored 30 points in the overtime loss at Northern Colordao (Jan. 20), which was his best output of the Big Sky slate so far and that total also moved him into UND’s top 30 on all-time scoring charts. He now sits in 23rd place with 1,173 career points. Crandall needs 17 points to move into the top 20 on the list.
ONE OR THE OTHER
UND’s last seven contests in the series with Northern Colorado have either gone into overtime or been decided by one point in regulation. That streak appeared to be in jeopardy this past Saturday with the Bears holding a double-digit lead midway through the second half, but the Fighting Hawks rallied to force the third-straight overtime game in the series. After winning both extra-session games last season with the Bears, UNC spoiled UND’s attempt at a third-straight series win when Andre Spight dranined a half-court shot at the buzzer to lift the home team to a 94-91 victory. Spight finished with a career-high 34 points and had nine of those in overtime. The Bears hold a 4-3 edge in the past seven tight-knit games.
UND’s victory at NDSU (Jan. 16) marked just the second non-conference game the Fighting Hawks have played after Big Sky play started since joining the league prior to the 2012-13 season. Back in 2013, UND fell at Omaha 83-75 (Feb. 23).
Through the first 15 games of the season, UND had reached double-figures in turnovers in each of those contests. The Fighting Hawks have done a better job of protecting the ball in the last eight games, reaching double figures only three times, including a season-low five turnovers in their win at NDSU (Jan. 16).
AVANTSING HIS GAME
Junior Conner Avants was a rebound shy of registering his first career double-double on four different occasions before finally notching one in the 94-91 overtime loss to Northern Colorado (Jan. 20). Those around the Big Sky are probably surprised it took Avants 83 career games to record one, but he got that monkey off his back with a 20-point, 11-rebound effort against the Bears. The 11 boards were a new career-high for the Edmond, Okla., native, who also had a career-high four steals against the Bears.
He picked up his second double-double in the home loss to Montana (Feb. 3) and in the past six games, Avants is 31-for-50 from the floor (61.0 percent) and is averaging 13.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: WEBER STATE
• Head coach Randy Rahe has the Wildcats off to a 15-7 start overall and 8-2 tally in Big Sky play, which has them in second place in the league standings.
• Sophomore Jerrick Harding leads the Big Sky in scoring average in overall games, averaging 21.9 ppg and he has upped that to 23.3 ppg in Big Sky play (2nd overall).
• Harding is shooting 55.2 percent from the field, which is tops among all Big Sky guards, and is also knocking down 44.1 percent of his 3-point attempts (41-93).
• Backcourt mate Ryan Richardson is averaging 13.6 ppg overall and 14.2 ppg in league play.
• Junior Zach Braxton provides the beef down low for the Wildcats and is averaging 11.8 ppg and 7.6 rpg, which is the second-best clip in the league.
• The Wildcats enter the game as the top shooting team in the Big Sky, knocking down 50.4 percent of their shots. UND held Weber State to a 43.9 percent clip in the first meeting, including an 8-for-24 (33 percent) effort in the first half.
• The Wildcats are also one of the top defensive teams in the league, holding opponents to a 41.8 percent clip from the floor and 68.4 ppg.
• The 89 points UND scored were the most yielded by Weber State this season.• Senior Dusty Baker is one of the top reserves in the league, scoring 7.8 ppg and dishing out a team-best 4.0 apg.
• The Fighting Hawks are the only Big Sky team with all five starters averaging in double figures.
• Entering Monday’s games this week, UND was one of 22 teams in the NCAA with five players averaging double figures. Gonzaga and Villanova were the only two with six players averaging double figures.
• Only Utah Valley, a team UND went to overtime with on Nov. 25, has had a higher field-goal percentage against Weber State this season when the Wolverines shot 55.6 percent in their 83-56 win over Dec. 6. The Fighting Hawks shot 54.4 percent from the floor in their win over Weber on Jan. 13.
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