GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The time has finally arrived for UND to play its inaugural Big Sky game and the team will be doing so against another league newcomer - Southern Utah. Tipoff with the Thunderbirds is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT on Monday.
UND VS. SOUTHERN UTAH SERIES
UND VS. SOUTHERN UTAH SERIES
All-time: First Meeting
In Cedar City: First Meeting
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Southern Utah: First Meeting
Southern Utah Head Coach Nick Robinson vs. UND: First Meeting
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
Radio: 100.3 FM (Grand Forks) or iHeart Radio App (computer or smart phone)
Live Audio Stream: www.UNDSports.com (free)
Live Video: www.BigSkyTV.org (free)
Live Stats: www.SUUTBirds.com (free)
Live Chat: www.UNDSports.com (free)
IN THE PAINT...
• The Big Sky will be the third conference that UND will be affiliated with since the program begin 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 Thunderbirds are one of four Big Sky teams UND has never played on the hardwood. The others are Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona and Weber State.
• 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 Great West Conference Tournament in 2011 and 2012 anda advanced to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament both seasons.
• JUCO transfer Alonzo Traylor had the best game of his brief UND career on Thursday vs. Presentation when he went 8-for-8 from the floor and scored a season-high 17 points.
• Traylor’s perfect shooting night helped UND snap a five-game losing skid in what was the team’s final tuneup before Big Sky play commences. UND would rout the visiting Saints 74-32 as the team season-highs with 16 steals and 11 blocks in the victory.
• Traylor was the only UND player to reach double figures, but all 10 players who saw court time scored, including crowd favorite Dan Stockdale, who had three points in five minutes.
• With nine points in the win over Presentation, junior Aaron Anderson surpassed the 700-point plateau for his career. He is one of five juniors on the team that have already scored at least 500 points in their careers. Injured classmate Troy Huff leads that quintet with 884 career points. Jamal Webb is next with 671, while Josh Schuler (561) and Brandon Brekke (510) are also halfway to 1,000-point clip for their respective careers.
• Senior MItch Wilmer has already registered a career-high in blocked shots this season with 14. Wilmer has also equaled his single-game high four different times already this season with a quartet of three-block games to his credit. His 1.8 bpg average is fourth best in the Big Sky.
• Anderson and classmate Josh Schuler both went 3-for-6 from 3-point range in the victory over the Saints. Sophomore Lenny Antwi, who continues to lead the team in long-distance shooting, knocked down a pair of triples along with redshirt freshman Shane Benton. The team went 11-for-27 (40.7 percent) on the night.
• Senior Jordan Allard will play in his 100th career game on Monday at Southern Utah. The Fargo native is the active career leader in that category for UND.
• UND suffered another injury to a starter in the NDSU game as power forward Brandon Brekke left the game after taking an inadvertent elbow to his head. Brekke played just three minutes against the Bison. As a sophomore in UND’s 59-54 victory over the Bison, Brekke scored a game-high 17 points. His status is day-to-day.
• Jones has four starters back and six of his top seven scorers from his 2012 Great West Conference Tournament championship team. The seventh-year head coach will have to replace second team All-Great West 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.
• 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.
• The 2011-12 season was the last for the UND men’s basketball team to compete under the Fighting Sioux nickname. The longtime nickname was retired this past summer and all University athletic teams will go by the University of North Dakota, North Dakota or UND until Jan. 1, 2015.
UND will take some confidence into its inaugural Big Sky game against Southern Utah thanks to a 74-32 victory over Presentation College on Dec. 13. Junior Alonzo Traylor had the best outing of his brief UND career, totalling 17 points on 8-of-8 shooting from the floor. Traylor teamed with senior Doug Archer as the duo went 12-for-12 from the field as UND shot a season-high 54.7 percent in the win that snapped a five-game losing skid. Juniors Aaron Anderson and Josh Schuler each scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from the beyond the arc. UND also had season-highs of 16 steals and 11 blocks in the contest.
STARTING LINE-UP SHUFFLE
Head coach Brian Jones used only five starting lineups a season ago and the combination of Jamal Webb (PG), Aaron Anderson (SG), Troy Huff (SF), Patrick Mitchell (PF) and Brandon Brekke (C) started 27 of those contests. That quintet helped UND post a 17-15 record and win its second straight Great West Conference Tournament title. Unfortunately, due to some key injuries early in this campaign, the seventh-year head coach has already had to shuffle his starting lineup that many times through eight games of the 2012-13 campaign.
The starting lineup of Webb (PG), Aaron Anderson (SG), Josh Schuler (SF), Doug Archer (PF) and Mitch Wilmer (C) was the fifth different one Jones has deployed this season.
Senior captain Doug Archer found himself in the starting lineup in last Thursday’s victory over Presentation College. It was not the first start of Archer’s career, but it had been a while since the six-foot-eight forward was on the floor for the opening tip. His previous two career starts came during the first two games of his career as a redshirt freshman during the 2008-09 season. He made the most of his opportunity this time around, going 4-for-4 from the field to net eight points, while also adding four rebounds and a career-high four assists.
SPINNING QUITE THE WEBB
Junior Jamal Webb equaled his career-high with five steals against Presentation College and moved into third place on UND’s all-time chart for career steals with 125. The Buffalo native needs only three more steals to move into second place (Rico Burkett; 127), but still has some work to do to catch Scott Guldseth, who accumulated 176 steals during his UND career. Webb currently has 16 steals so far this season and is averaging 2.3/g, which was tops in the Big Sky (as of Dec. 14).
WILMER LIKING HIS NEW ROLE
Senior Mitch Wilmer has started the last five games for UND and the Warroad, Minn., native is playing the best basketball of his UND career. Wilmer, who had only three starts coming into the season, is averaging 7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 2.2 bgp during that stretch. He has twice set his career-high in scoring, chipping in with 11 points at South Dakota State (Nov. 28) and upping that to 12 at North Dakota State (Dec. 9). Two of Wilmer’s three double-digit scoring games in his career have come at the Fargodome. He has also blocked three shots in four different games this season and has already set a career-high with 14 on the season. His clip of 1.8 blocks per game was the fourth best in the league entering Big Sky play.
ANTWI OFF TO A SCORCHING START
Sophomore Lenny Antwi is the team’s best 3-point shooter early on in the season, connecting on 14-of-31 attempts. His 45.2 percent clip was sixth best entering Big Sky play.
FORMER NCC FOE WILL BE FIRST BIG SKY HOME OPPONENT
The first Big Sky opponent to play at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center will be a familiar one for UND men’s basketball fans. Northern Colorado will come to town for a pre-Christmas clash with its former North Central Conference rivals on Friday, Dec. 21. Tipoff with the Bears is slated for 7:05 p.m.
A BLIP ON THE RADAR
There is no hiding the fact that a 14-for-30 effort at the free throw line was a major culprit in the 73-70 home setback to Kansas City last Wednesday, but that effort has not been the norm this season. In the team’s other seven games, UND is 82-for-110 from the stripe (74.5 percent). The team responded with a 16-for-19 effort from the foul line in the Fargodome. In fact the 84.2 percent clip was the highest of the season for UND.
HUFF MAKING PROGRESS
Leading scorer Troy Huff is making progress in his recovery from a broken jaw suffered in the season opener at Kansas State. Huff, who led UND in scoring in each of the last two seasons at just over 13.0 ppg, had his wires removed a week ago and has resumed some basketball activities.
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 College Basketball Invitational.
ROSTER ROUND UP
Head coach Brian Jones has a 16-man roster, but only 12 of those players are 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. The team is appealing the ruling. 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.
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 North Dakota State’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 have accounted for 63.9 percent of the team’s scoring through eight games. The quintet has added a sixth player in JUCO-transfer Alonzo Traylor, who is averaging 6.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg off the bench.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: SOUTHERN UTAH
• Head coach Nick Robinson is in his first season at both Southern Utah and as a collegiate head coach. A 2005 graduate of Stanford, Robinson spent his previous three seasons as an assistant coach at Louisiana State.
• The Thunderbirds are off to a 2-6 start in Robinson’s first season. SUU enters the Big Sky after spending the previous 15 seasons as a member of the Summit League.
• SUU finished sixth a season ago with an 8-10 record overall in what was its final season in the Summit League.
• The Thunderbirds advanced to the 2001 NCAA Tournament after winning the Summit League Tournament as the No. 2 seed. SUU shared the regular season title that season with Valparaiso.
• SUU has a pair of seniors averaging in double figures so far this season led by Damon Heuir at 14.0 ppg. Forward Jackson Stevenett is close behind at 13.4 ppg.
• Stevenett is shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point land, which is tops on the team and also leads the club in rebounding at 5.7 rpg.
• Another senior is SUU’s top threat off the bench as Julian Scott is putting up 9.2 ppg and shooting 54.5 percent from the floor.
• The Thunderbirds are yielding 76.4 ppg, but that number is skewed by allowing 103 points in a loss to No. 21 Gonzaga and 112 points in a setback to Cal State Fullerton.
• Junior Jayson Cheesman leads the Big Sky with 22 blocks and is averaging 2.8/g. The JUCO transfer is averaging 6.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg to go with his defensive efforts.
Southern Utah and North Dakota have some noteworthy similarities as both embark on their first Big Sky Conference games on Monday in Cedar City.
• Both teams are 2-6 and have yet to defeat a Division I opponent.
• Neither team has won a road game.
• Both teams are 2-1 at home.
• Both teams are shooting 42.9 percent from the field.
• UND is averaging 64.8 ppg (518 total points), while SUU is averaging 64.6 ppg (517 total points).