GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- North Dakota returns home for the final time this season and will begin its three-game homestand with Southern Utah on Thursday night. Tip-off against the Thunderbirds is set for 7:05 p.m. and will be televised on Midco Sports Network. The three-game homestand matches the longest of the season for the Fighting Hawks, who are 5-5 at The Betty this year.
UND VS. SOUTHERN UTAH SERIES
All-time: UND leads 8-3
In Grand Forks: UND leads 3-1
Last Meeting: UND 91, SUU 89 (Jan. 26, 2018; Cedar City)
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Southern Utah: 8-3
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Simon: 2-0
Southern Utah Head Coach Todd Simon vs. UND: 0-2
Southern Utah Head Coach Todd Simon vs. Jones: 0-2
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
TV: MidcoSN | Alex Heinter (pbp) and Val Sussex (analyst)
Radio: 740 AM (GF) | 790 AM (Fargo) | Paul Ralston (pbp)
Live Stats: www.UNDSports.com
Live Stream: WatchBigSky.com | Pluto TV Ch. 240
IN THE PAINT...
• UND will look to snap a three-game overall skid on Thursday versus a T-Birds’ team that it has won four straight against in the all-time series.
• In last year’s sweep of SUU, the Fighting Hawks won convincingly at home 95-65, then used a buzzer-beater from Quinton Hooker to win 91-89 in Cedar City.
• The Fighting Hawks came away empty again on the road in Big Sky play (0-7) last week, falling 84-76 at Weber State on Thursday before seeing an 11-game winning streak against Idaho State snapped on Saturday with an 82-67 loss.
• UND and Weber State were tied 69-69 with less than three minutes to play before the Wildcats reeled off an 8-2 run to put the game away.
• Against the Bengals, UND erased a 13-point, first-half deficit to square things 37-37 by, but ISU scored the first eight points of the second half and never trailed again. The Fighting Hawks were 6-3 in league road games during their title run a season ago.
• Junior Geno Crandall averaged 22.0 ppg and shot 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) from the field in last week’s action, including a 28-point outing vs. Idaho State.
ON THE HORIZON
The Fighting Hawks’ middle game of their three-game homestand is Saturday as Northern Arizona visits Grand Forks one last time as a Big Sky member. The contest vs. the Lumberjacks is also this year’s “Military Appreciation” Game and all active and veteran military personnel can receive free admission (plus up to four dependents) by showing their valid military ID at the box office.
DID YOU KNOW?
Southern Utah was UND’s first Big Sky regular-season opponent and first Big Sky Tournament opponent. The Fighting Hawks split those decisions, falling in their league debut in Cedar City on Dec. 17, 2012 before knocking off the T-Birds in the 2013 Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals in Missoula.
The Fighting Hawks went 11-2 at The Betty last season and own a 123-58 record in the building that opened prior to the 2004-05 season. UND won its eighth-consecutive home opener earlier this season and sits at 5-5 at home this season after splitting with Montana State and Montana. The Fighting Hawks were 8-1 in Big Sky play on their home court a year ago.
The North Dakota men’s basketball program holds a 1570-1052 (.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 148-164 in those contests. As a Big Sky member, the Fighting Hawks own a 55-48 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 saw their 11-game winning streak over Idaho State, which was their longest over an opponent during the program’s Division I history, come to an end with an 82-67 loss on Saturday. UND trailed by 13 midway through the first half, but stormed back to knot things at 37-37 by halftime, but the Bengals used an 8-0 run to open the second half to cease control of the contest. Junior Geno Crandall led all scorers with 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the floor.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Junior Geno Crandall has moved into some exclusive lists in the UND record books this season. He’s averaging a team-best 16.0 ppg this season and his 28-point outing at Idaho State this past Saturday moved him into the top 20 on UND’s all-time scoring chart. The Minneapolis native eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau in the overtime loss at Gonzaga and currently ranks 18th with 1,215 points.
Crandall also ranks fifth on UND’s all-time steals chart with 171 and is eighth on the all-time assists chart with 348.
Crandall’s Career Single-Game Highs
Points: 41 (vs. Troy; 11/10/17)
Assists: 9 (vs. Southern Utah; 1/26/17)
Steals: 5 (6 times, last vs. NDSU; 12/9/17)
AVANTSING HIS GAME
Junior Conner Avants was a rebound shy of registering his first career double-double on four different occasions throughout his career 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 UNC.
He picked up his second double-double of the season in the home loss to Montana (Feb. 3) and in the past eight games, Avants is 43-for-66 from the floor (65.2 percent) and is averaging 13.3 ppg and 5.6 rpg. The Edmond, Okla., native has reached double figures in seven of those contests and shares the team lead in that category with Geno Crandall at 17.
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 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to register the first double-double of his career. He’s been hot of late, notching a career-high 24 points at Idaho (Jan. 27), which included a 4-for-9 effort from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-8 forward has proven his worth this season by averaging 11.5 ppg and 6.7 rpg (seventh in the Big Sky). In Big Sky play, Jones has his average up to 12.6 ppg and is shooting 41.8 percent from 3-point range, which tops the team.
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.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: SOUTHERN UTAH
• Head coach Todd Simon has led Southern Utah to a 10-13 start during his second season leading the T-Birds. His squad is 4-8 in Big Sky play and coming off back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.
• The latest was a 63-54 victory at Northern Arizona, which was the first league road win of the season for SUU.
• JUCO transfer Brandon Better came off the bench to lead the T-Birds in scoring during both of those victories. He’s averaging 12.5 ppg in his first season at SUU.
• Seattle transfer Jadon Cohee and UNLV transfer Dwayne Morgan lead SUU in scoring as both are contributing 12.8 ppg.
• Cohee is the only T-Bird to start all 23 games this season and has four 20-plus point games on the campaign.
• Morgan became eligible at the semester break and the 6-foot-8 forward has started all 12 Big Sky games for the T-Birds. He has eight double-figure scoring games during that stretch, including a season-best 26 at Idaho State (Jan. 4).
• Jamal Aytes is the fourth T-Bird averaging in double figures as he and Better are both scoring 12.5 ppg. Aytes is a grad transfer from BYU, who also played his first collegiate season at UNLV. He has a stretch of 10-straight, double-figure scoring games to his credit.
• Two things the T-Birds do well are shoot free throws (74.7 percent; 3rd in Big Sky) and protect the basketball (12.1 turnovers pg; 3rd fewest in Big Sky).
-- UND --