GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Big Sky gauntlet continues for North Dakota on Saturday as Weber State arrives in town for a 2 p.m. tip-off at The Betty. The Wildcats will be the sixth-straight league foe to start UND’s league schedule that has no more than one league loss entering the matchup. All six of those teams were in the top half of the standings through Thursday’s games.
UND VS. WEBER STATE SERIES
All-time: WSU leads 9-4
In Grand Forks: WSU leads 3-2
Last Meeting: UND 93, WSU 89 (ot) (Mar. 11, 2017; Reno)
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Weber State: 4-9
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Rahe: 4-9
Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe vs. UND: 9-4
Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe vs. Jones: 9-4
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
TV: Midco Sports Network
Radio: 1440 AM (GF) | 790 AM (Fargo)
Live Stats: www.UNDSports.com
Live Stream: WatchBigSky.com | Pluto TV Ch. 240
IN THE PAINT ...
• UND tasted victory on Thursday for the first time since Nov. 28 and did so in impressive fashion, dealing Idaho State its first Big Sky loss with an 81-58 setback. Seven different Fighting Hawks scored nine or more points in the win.
• The win over the Bengals also snapped an eight-game losing skid, which was the longest for UND since dropping the final nine games of the 2014-15 season.
• The Wildcats are 10-6 overall and have won three in a row after dropping their Big Sky opener and are coming off a road win at Northern Colorado where they rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to improve to 3-1 in league play.
• The momentum in the UND-Weber State series as shifted over the past two years after the Wildcats won the first eight Big Sky clashes between the programs. The Fighting Hawks responded by winning four of the last five, including back-to-back wins in Grand Forks. WSU had won the first three matchups at The Betty.
• This is the sixth and final season in the Big Sky for the Fighting Hawks, who will join the Summit League in 2018-19.
• UND owns a 53-42 record in its first five-plus seasons of league play, including its best showing of 14-4 during its title run last season.
The North Dakota men’s basketball program holds a 1567-1046 (.602) all-time record since Dr. George Sweetland led the first team onto the court in 1904-05. North Dakota is 947-284 (.770) all-time when it comes to defending its home court.
BETTER AFTER THE BREAK
Before leading 41-29 over Idaho State at halftime on Thursday, the Fighting Hawks’ previous four league foes havd outscored them 172-106 (43.0-26.5 ppg) in the first half. The margin was much slimmer in the second half with those opponents managing to hold just 167-162 advantage after the break. With a 40-29 advantage in the second half against Idaho State, UND is outscoring its opponents 202-196 (40.4-39.0 ppg).
OPPONENT PREVIEW: WEBER STATE
• Head coach Randy Rahe has the Wildcats off to a 10-6 start overall and 3-1 tally in Big Sky play. The three wins have come in succession after they dropped their Big Sky opener 62-60 at home to Idaho State.
• Sophomore Jerrick Harding has emerged as the team’s top scorer, averaging 21.5 ppg and upping that to 24.0 ppg in Big Sky play (2nd overall). He had a game-high 21 in the Wildcats’ 78-74 road win at Northern Colorado on Thursday.
• Weber State trailed by 10 at the half in that one before erasing the deficit by scoring 49 second-half points. The Wildcats made 25 field goals and 25 free throws in the contest.
• Junior Zach Braxton provides the beef down low for the Wildcats and is averaging 12.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg, which is the fourth-best clip in the league.
• The Wildcats enter the game as the top shooting team in the Big Sky, knocking down 51.1 percent of their shots. Harding leads’ all league guards with a 57.1 percent clip. He’s also shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc.
• Senior Dusty Baker is one of the top reserves in the league, scoring 6.8 ppg and dishing out a team-best 3.9 apg. Ricky Nelson also comes off the bench and is averaging 8.8 ppg in league play after averagin 3.7 ppg in non-conference games.
• These two teams have played three common opponents already. Weber State is 1-2 against Presentation (88-48; W), Utah Valley (83-56; L) and Idaho State (62-60; L), while UND owns a 2-1 record (Presentation, 82-75; W, Utah Valley, 83-75 (ot); L and Idaho State, 81-58; W).
For the first time in his collegiate career, reserve guard Billy Brown buried a trio of 3-pointers in the same game, providing a season-high nine points off the bench in UND’s 81-58 win over Idaho State. In five Big Sky games, Brown is now 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) after going 3-for-17 (17.6) from distance in non-conference play. Brown also added career-highs in assists (4) and steals (3) in 28 minutes of action vs. the Bengals.
TRAY BALL, CORNER POCKET
True freshman Tray Buchanan has emerged as UND’s best deep-ball threat since Big Sky commenced. Buchanan is 13-for-34 in league action (38.2 percent) and has accounted for nearly a third of UND’s trifectas in five Big Sky games (13 of 40). His success from beyond the arc has also made him one of the top scoring reserves in Big Sky play, averaging 12.4 ppg. In 11 non-conference games, Buchanan went just 6-for-25 from deep (24 percent) and averaged 4.3 ppg.
Buchanan led UND in scoring in both contests last week in the Treasure State, scoring a career-high 16 against Montana (Jan. 4), then surpassing that mark with 19 against Montana State (Jan. 6) in his first career start. He had nine off the bench in the win over Idaho State (Jan. 11).
JONESING FOR SUCCESS
Iowa grad transfer Dale Jones missed the Idaho contest (Dec. 29) after starting all 11 non-conference games, but returned to the starting lineup in an emphatic way in his Big Sky debut vs. Eastern Washington (Dec. 31). Jones scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to register the first double-double of his career. The 6-foot-8 forward has proven his worth early on this season by averaging 10.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg (third in the Big Sky). After three seasons at the junior-college level, injuries limited him to just 11 games for the Hawkeyes from 2015-17. By missing a majority of those two seasons, he was granted a sixth year of elibility by the NCAA.
STEWART GETTING COMFORTABLE
Sophomore Marlon Stewart scored just 26 points (8.7 ppg) in his first three career games for UND, but is averaging a team-best 14.5 ppg in the 13 games since then. That stretch includes a career-hig 24 points against Utah Valley (Nov. 25) and team-high 23 against NDSU (Dec. 9). That was his third 20-plus point game of the season for Stewart. He had a career-high nine helpers in UND’s outing against Presentation (Nov. 28). Stewart went for 15 points and went 6-for-6 from the foul line vs. the 12th-ranked Zags (Dec. 16) and had 15 of UND’s 18 first-half points against Idaho (Dec. 29) in his Big Sky debut. He finished with 17 that contest and is averaging a team-high 13.4 ppg in league action. He came off the bench for the first time this season against Montana State (Jan. 6) and finished with 10 points.
WHAT A WAY TO REACH 1K
Geno Crandall became the 36th player in UND men’s basketball history to reach the 1,000-point plateau and the junior arrived at the figure in one of the most dramatic ways possible. The milestone came on his 3-pointer that sent the UND-Gonzaga game into overtime, tying the game at 69-69 with 1.8 seconds to play. Crandall’s milestone came in his 73rd career game, which made him the quickest among the six Fighting Hawks to reach that plateau during the program’s Division I era. Troy Huff (2010-14) had been the quickest among the first quintet after taking 74 career games. Huff ended his career as the program’s third all-time leading scorer with 2,005 points.
SIGNED, SEALES, DELIVERED
Junior Cortez Seales did his part in trying to deliver UND’s first win over a ranked opponent, scoring a season-high 23 points in the OT loss at No. 12/13 Gonzaga (Dec. 16). Seales went 11-for-15 from the field, including a stretch in the first half where he made seven-consecutive shots in helping give UND a 34-30 lead on the Bulldogs at halftime. It marked the first time UND had led a ranked opponent at the break in program history. His 11 field goals made against the Zags equaled his career-best from his collegiate debut (UM-Morris; Nov. 13, 2015).
Seales broke out of a mini-slump against Montana State (Jan. 6), finishing with 15 points after scoring just nine in the first three Big Sky games of the season. He added a game-high 14 in the win over Idaho State, while also corralling a season-high seven rebounds and dishing out five assists.
Junior captain Conner Avants had reached double-figures in a career-best seven-straight games before being held to three points despite playing a career-high 38 minutes at Gonzaga (Dec. 16). He got back into double figures with 11 points against Eastern Washington (Dec. 31) and now has 10 double-figure scoring games on the campaign after netting 13 vs. Idaho State (Jan. 11).
WALTER NETS CAREER-HIGH AGAINST BISON
Sophomore Kienan Walter played a career-high 24 minutes off the bench against NDSU (Dec. 9) and delivered with a career-high 11 points. He made his only two field-goal attempts, but also connected on six-of-eight free throws.
Junior Geno Crandall has equaled his career-high of five steals three different times already this season and now has 155 for his career. With his latest five-steal performance against NDSU (Dec. 9), Crandall moved into fifth place on UND’s all-time charts knocking his mentor Aaron Anderson from that perch. He needs 23 more to reach fourth place.
1. Jamal Webb (240; 2010-14)
2. Troy Huff (228; 2010-14)
3. Quinton Hooker (195; 2013-17)
4. Scott Guldseth (178; 1990-93)
5. Geno Crandall (155; 2015-present)
Crandall is also closing in on UND’s top 10 list for career assists. His four helpers against Idaho State (Jan. 11) moved his career total to 315, which is three shy of Mike Greulich (1977-80; 318) for 10th place on that list.
Junior Geno Crandall has achieved a growing list of “firsts” this season and he added another one in the overtime loss to Utah Valley (Nov. 25). For the first time in his career, Crandall notched a double-double with 15 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against the Wolverines. Crandall’s double-double was also the first of the season for a Fighting Hawk. Classmate Conner Avants was a rebound shy of his first career double-double against UVU (Nov. 25), finishing with 12 points and nine boards.
THE POWER OF EIGHTY
Over the past two seasons, UND owns a 20-2 record when scoring 80 or more points. The only two losses when reaching that point total have been against ranked opponents (100-82 vs. Arizona; NCAA Tournament and 89-83 OT loss at Gonzaga). So far this season, the Fighting Hawks are 4-1 when scoring 80-plus points.
FRANKEN FINDS FIRST POINTS
True freshman Garrett Franken buried a pair of 3-pointers against Montana (Jan. 4) to account for his first collegiate points. It was just the seventh appearance for the 6-foot-8 forward, who logged 10 minutes off the bench against the Griz.
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