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Head coach Brian Jones and his North Dakota men's basketball team opens Big Sky Tournament play on Thursday in search of its third straight postseason conference title.
Game Notes: Newcomers set to clash in Big Sky quarters
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Updated: Thursday 03/12/2013 14:49:35 (ET)
by UNDsports.com
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. - For the first time during its brief Division I era, the North Dakota men's basketball team will begin a quest for the ultimate prize - a berth in the NCAA Tournament. That quest begins on Thursday in Missoula, Mont., as UND will look to win its third straight conference tournament and first in the Big Sky.

UND VS. SOUTHERN UTAH SERIES
All-time:
Series tied 1-1
Division I:
Series tied 1-1
Neutral site:
First Meeting
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Southern Utah:
1-1
Southern Utah Head Coach Nick Robinson vs. UND:
1-1

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Live Audio Stream:
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Live Video:
www.BigSkyTV.org (free)
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http://statb.us/b/19752 (free)
Live Chat:
www.UNDSports.com (free)

IN THE PAINT...
• It’s only fitting that North Dakota and Southern Utah would square off against each other in the opening round of the Big Sky Tournament.
• The two league newcomers played each other in what was the Big Sky debut for both teams on Dec. 17, then played the remainder of the other nine league schools twice (19 total games) before meeting again in the regular season finale in Grand Forks this past Saturday.
• Thursday’s second quarterfinal feating UND-SUU will take place at 6:30 p.m. CT. and can be viewed live on BigSkyTV.org with Peter Young handling the play-by-play and Jay McMillin providing the color analysis. Saturday’s Championship game will be on ESPNU at 8 p.m. CT.
• UND and SUU split the two regular season matchups with the home team winning on both occasions. The T-Birds won by 12 on their home court (Dec. 17), while UND won the regular season finale 68-61 on Saturday in Grand Forks.
• UND had wrapped up the No. 3 seed prior to the game, thanks to winning three straight Big Sky road games leading up tot he contest.
• The Green and White finished 12-8 in year one of the Big Sky and those 12 wins were the most ever by a league newcomer. UND and SUU are just the second and third league newcomers to qualify for the postseason tournament. CS-Northridge qualified in 1997 and advance to the title game that season.
• With the four-game Big Sky winning streak to close out the regular season, UND finished two games ahead of Montana State and Northern Colorado, who tied for fourth at 10-10. Southern Utah faltered down the stretch, dropping seven straight league tilts, but the T-Birds were able to claim a tournament spot and the No. 6 seed by virtue of owning a tiebreaker over Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. All three of those schools finished 8-12.
• With two wins already in March this season, UND is 10-2 in the month over the past two-plus seasons. Five of those wins came in back-to-back Great West Tournaments as UND won both of those events (2011; Orem, Utah and 2012; Chicago, Ill.) and earned an automatic berth to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT).  -- ITP continued on page 5 --
• UND was the No. 3 seed when it won the 2011 GWC title with a thrilling double-overtime win over rival South Dakota. Junior Josh Schuler drilled a 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds to cap a wild contest. Last season, UND was the No. 2 seed in Chicago when the Green and White defeated NJIT 75-60 in the championship game.

MORE IN THE PAINT...
• UND is riding the momentum of a four-game Big Sky winning streak into postseason tournament play thanks to three straight road wins and a triumph in the regular seaosn finale at home vs. Southern Utah on Senior Day.
• Juniors Troy Huff (first team) and Aaron Anderson (second team) were each honored by league officials on Monday being named to the All-Big Sky Team. Huff was a two-time All-Great West second team honoree, while this is the first all-conference honor for Anderson.
• UND opened Big Sky play by dropping four of its first five league tilts, but responded by winning 11 of its next 15, including a 7-3 mark in the second half of the campaign.
• After suffering a broken jaw in the first half of the season opener at Kansas State (he finished the game), junior Troy Huff missed the next eight games while the injury healed. UND would only go 2-6 during that stretch with both of those wins coming against Division III opponents. Huff’s last game missed was the Big Sky opener at Southern Utah, but he has played in the 21 games since and UND has compiled a 13-8 record with him back in the lineup.
• UND provided its four active seniors (Doug Archer, Jordan Allard, Dan Stockdale and Mitch Wilmer) and injured classmate Spencer Goodman with a 68-61 victory on Senior Day. Archer equaled his career-high with four blocks in the contest. Allard scored all five of his points in a quick spurt early in the second half and Wilmer contributed with six rebounds. Stockdale made the first start of his career and played the opening three minutes.
• For Allard, the contest marked his 121st appearance in a UND uniform, tying him for sixth most on the all-time charts.
• Junior Jamal Webb scored 19 points, equaled his season-high with nine rebounds and added five assists and four steals in the victory over the T-Birds. He picked up the scoring slack for Anderson (team’s second leading scorer at 14.6 ppg), who was sidelined with an injury just four minutes into the contest.
• Webb’s four steals brought his career total to 177 and moved him within one of tying Scott Guldseth of UND’s all-time lead in that category. Guldseth had 178 steals from 1989-93. Those four steals also pushed his season totall to 68, which is the third higest single-season total in school history. Rico Burkett holds the all-time record when he had 75 during the 1989-90 season.
• Junior Josh Schuler scored 16 points off the bench in his to action after missing eight games with back spasms. Schuler had started 20 straight games (eight of those in place of Huff) after the season opener before being sidelined for the first time in his career (87 straight appearances).
* Huff added 15 points in the win to reach double figures for a team-leading 21st time. He finished Big Sky play ranked second in league games in scoring (19.7 ppg) and steals (2.3 spg) and sixth in rebounding (6.9 rpg),
• Webb is averaging 10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.4 apg and 2.3 spg in UND’s last 10 contests (7-3) and career steals is the not the only statistical category where Webb has moved into UND’s Top 10. With those 54 assists in the last 10 games, including a career-high 10 in a road win at EWU, Webb now ranks fifth all-time in that category (365).
• Unfortunately, Anderson was held scoreless for just the second time in his career (at Air Force in the CIT as a freshman) in the win over SUU. He was only able to get one shot off before running into a screen set by the T-Birds’ Jaren Jeffery.
• Anderson led UND in scoring with 16 points in the loss at SUU. Wilmer registered the first double-double of his career in the loss to the T-Birds (Dec. 17), equaling his career-high with 15 points and also pulling down a career best 11 rebounds. Junior Aaron Anderson led UND in scoring with 16 points. 
• Both teams have played 21 games since that mid-December meeting. UND is 13-8 during that stretch, while SUU is 8-13.
• With its first Big Sky road sweep at Portland State and Eastern Washington, UND improved its win total in league road games to six this season. That total is a four-game improvement over last season when the Green and White won only two games away from home during the 2011-12 campaign.
• The six road wins are also the most in a season during UND’s Division I era (since 2008-09) and for head coach Brian Jones (since 2006-07) during his tenure.
• The win over EWU was also the 100th for Jones in his six-plus seasons at UND. He ranks fourth all-time in career victories in program history.
• With two wins already in March, UND is 16-7 under Jones during the third month of the year.

OPPONENT PREVIEW: SOUTHERN UTAH
• Fellow Big Sky newcomer Souther Utah finished in a three-way tie for sixth place in the league standings, but earned one of the seven spots in the Big Sky Tournament by holding the tiebreaker over Northern Arizona (No. 7 seed) and Sacramento State (last team out).
• The T-Birds are led by rookie head coach Nick Robinson , who is a finalist for  the Joe B. Hall Award, which is given annually to the top first-year coach in Division I college basketball. The T-Birds are 11-19 overall this season.
• The Thunderbirds enter the tournament having lost seven straight Big Sky games after suffering a 68-61 loss to North Dakota on Saturday. The two league newcomers will square off again in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday. 
• SUU and UND split its season series as the two squads met for the first time on the hardwood in Cedar City on Dec. 17. The T-Birds won what was the Big Sky debut for both teams, 79-67.
• SUU is led by senior guard tandem of Jackson Stevenette and Damon Heuir, who finished the regular season ranked among the top five Big Sky scorers. Stevenette finished second behind Northern Arizona’s Gabe Rogers for the scoring lead in overall games at 17.7 ppg and third in Big Sky scoring at 19.3 ppg. Heuir ranks third in overall scoring (15.8 ppg) and fourth in Big Sky games (16.4 ppg).
• Heuir reached double figures in both contests vs. UND this season, scoring 13 in the home win and adding 12 in the road loss.
• Stevenette scored 21 points in the home meeting, but saw his 23-game streak of reaching double figures snapped in Grand Forks after UND held him to a season-low seven points in Big Sky play.
• Reserve guard Wade Collie scored 18 points in the home win, but did not play in the road loss after been dismissed from the team.
• No other active T-Bird regular is averaging more than 6.9 ppg. That total belongs to Jayson Cheesman, who is one of the league’s top shot blockers with 59 on the season (2.1/g).
• Redshirt freshman A.J. Hess, who has worked his way into the starting lineup, led SUU with 16 points in Saturday’s loss to North Dakota.


WELCOME TO THE BIG SKY
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 Southern Utah 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 GWC.

HUFF, ANDERSON FIRST JUNIORS TO REACH 1,000-POINT CLUB IN SAME SEASON
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. His classmate Aaron Anderson joined him just over a month later, reaching the plateau with a pair of second-half free throws at Portland State (Feb. 28). Huff and Anderson became the first junior teammates and only the third pair overall in UND history to reach the milestone during the same season. The other two sets of teammates to reach the 1,000-point plateau in the same season were Chris Fahrbach and Mike Greulich (1978-79) and Marcus Travis and Hunter Reineke (1999-2000).

HUFF FIRST WITH THREE BIG SKY POW AWARDs
Junior Troy Huff was named the Big Sky Player of the Week for the third time this season on Monday after leading UND to its first road sweep in league play. He had a career-high 34 points in the win at EWU, which clinched a berth in the Big Sky Tournament. He is the first Big Sky player to corral three weekly honors this season. Huff also earned the honor on New Year’s Eve after his 14-point, 12-rebound outing in the 56-53 victory over Bowling Green. 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 on Jan. 21 after leading UND to pair of back-to-back home wins over Eastern Washington and Portland State.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Junior Troy Huff is enjoying the best scoring season of his career, averaging 19.2 ppg in overall games and 19.7 ppg in Big Sky play. He finished second in scoring Big Sky play after playing in 19 of UND’s 20 league tilts, but he’ll need to play in 75 percent of all games to qualify for the overall title - a category he would be leading. The same standards apply for the NCAA where he would rank among the top 25 scorers nationally if he had not missed eight games due to a broken jaw. Huff could reach that minimum of 75 percent of games played if UND were to beat Southern Utah in the quarterfinals.

WEBB WORKING HIS WAY TO THE TOP
Junior Jamal Webb has moved into second place on UND’s career charts for steals with 68 already this season - a total that is the third highest in a single season as well.  He led the Big Sky in league games, averaging 2.5 spg and ranks 17th nationally in overall games (2.3/g). He is closing fast on UND’s career leader Scott Guldseth, who had 178 from 1989-93. He had 49 in 20 Big Sky games to give him 177 for his career.

TRIO OF JUNIORS CRACK ALL-TIME STEALS LIST
Point guard Jamal Webb currently leads a trio of UND juniors that have cracked the school’s all-time list in career steals.  Webb is quickly moving his way to the top of the all-time charts with 177, which is only one shy of sharing the top spot currently held by Scott Guldseth. Troy Huff, who has 50 steals already this season despite missing eight games, currently holds down the third spot with 140. Aaron Anderson has also moved into the top 10 with a career-high 44 steals this season. With a game-high four steals at Eastern Washington, Anderson moved into ninth on that chart.  UND leads the Big Sky, averaging 8.0 spg.

WIN NO. 100
Saturday’s victory over Eastern Washington not only secured a berth in the Big Sky Tournament for North Dakota, but also marked the 100th victory for head coach Brian Jones. Jones, who is in his seventh season, ranks fourth all-time now on career wins at the school.

DOWN TO THE WIRE
UND has played three games this season where a 3-point attempt at the buzzer could have provided a win for the shooting team. The first one did not go in favor of UND as Chad White hit a contested 3-pointer to give South Dakota State a 71-70 victory over the Green and White on Nov. 28. The next 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. Junior Troy Huff saw his contested 3-pointer at the end of regulation vs. Northern Arizona on Saturday miss, forcing the UND’s first overtime of the season. The Lumberjacks would scrape out a 74-72 victory thanks to the extra session.

UND SETS BIG SKY PRECEDENT
With 11 wins already in Big Sky play, UND keeps adding to its record for most wins by a league newcomer. Since 1970-71, 10 different schools have joined the Big Sky and the previous best total was eight. Cal State-Northridge accomplished that during the 1996-97 season when Portland State and Sac State also joined the conference. The six road wins are also the most by a BSC newcomer.

ROAD SUCCESS
North Dakota captured third place in the Big Sky this season thanks to its success away from The Betty. The Green and White won six Big Sky road games and picked up their first road sweep at Portland State (Feb. 28) and Eastern Washington (March 2). UND also won road games at Idaho State, Montana State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.

SHOT BLOCKING PRESENCE
Seniors Mitch Wilmer and Doug Archer are both enjoying the best seasons of their UND careers and a lot of their production is coming on the defensive end. Both players have set career-highs in blocked shots this season. Wilmer leads the team with 40 rejections and Archer is second with 33. The duo ranks among the top 10 shot blockers in the Big Sky as well. In fact, Wilmer and Archer have blocked more shots this season than they had combined in their careers. Wilmer had 17 in 55 career games entering the season, while Archer had 16 in 66 career games.

ALLARD MOVES INTO THE RECORD BOOKS
Only eight UND men’s basketball players have appeared in more games than senior Jordan Allard. The Fargo native has made 120 appearances for the Green and White in his career - a total that ranks ninth on the all-time charts. Allard has only missed three games in his career.

WILMER CONTINUES TO PLAY WELL
Senior Mitch Wilmer has started the last 27 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, 4.7 rpg and 1.3 bgp for the season. He has scored 164 points this season, which is 108 more than he scored as a reserve in 29 games last season. 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 SUU by adding 11 rebounds to his point total.

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.

SCORING SIZZLE
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 72.4 (1,457 of 2,013) percent of the team’s scoring through 30 games. Only Chicago State, who has 11 juniors on its roster, has more production from a third-year class (74.8 percent; 1,454 of 1,944).

SOME FAMILIARITY
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.

A CLOSER LOOK:
BACK-TO-BACK GREAT WEST TOURNAMENT TITLES
This is the first opportunity for North Dakota to advance to the NCAA Tournament, but the Green and White bring a wealth of postseason tournament experience and success to Missoula.

UND won the 2011 and 2012 Great West Tournament titles in what were years three and four of the transition to the Division I level. With not being eligible to participate in the NCAA Tournament yet, UND turned those two victories into a pair of CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournaments.

2011 (Orem, Utah)
No. 3 seed North Dakota
Quarterfinals: vs. No. 6 seed Texas-Pan American, W 71-70
Anderson puts UND up by four thanks to a floater high off the glass with 11 seconds remaining (Anderson only had six points in the game)
Semifinals: vs. No. 7. Houston Baptist, W 65-63
Mitchell’s two free throws with 1.6 seconds lift UND to second straight tight victory (he had fouled HBU’s Andrew Gonzalez on a 3-point attempt (made all three to tie) on the previous possession. Mitchell finished with 14 points)
Championship: vs. No. 4 South Dakota, W 77-76 (2ot)
After USD missed a free throw, Webb races ball down court to find Schuler open in the corner for the game-winning 3-pointer (just second triple of the tournament for him)
Tournament MVP: Patrick Mitchell
All-Tournament Team: Troy Huff

2012 (Chicago, Ill.)
No. 2 seed North Dakota
Semifinals: vs. No. 3 Texas Pan-American, W 63-59
Trailed by 16 points in the second half before staging a furious rally. Webb led all scorers with 19 points and added four steals.
Championship: vs. No. 4 NJIT, W 75-60
Overcame another halftime deficit to win second straight GWC Tournament title. Huff led UND with 15 points. Mitchell had 12 and Webb added 11.
Tournament MVP: Jamal Webb
All-Tournament Team: Troy Huff

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