GRAND FORKS, N.D. - This will be North Dakota’s third trip to Greeley to face Northern Colorado since moving to the Division I level prior to the 2008-09 season, but the matchup on Wednesday at Butler-Hancock Pavilion will easily be the most important. Tipoff is set for 8:05 p.m. CT.
UND VS. NORTHERN COLORADO SERIES
UND VS. NORTHERN COLORADO SERIES
All-time: UND leads 40-20
Division I: NC leads 4-0
In Greeley: NC leads 13-12
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Northern Colorado: 0-4
Northern Colorado Head Coach B.J. Hill vs. UND: 2-0
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: livestats.prestosports.com/uncbears/ (free)
Live Chat: www.UNDSports.com (free)
IN THE PAINT...
• UND holds a slight one-game lead on Northern Colorado in the Big Sky standings and only game separates third through ninth place. Montana and Weber State have already locked in the top two seeds and the Grizzlies hold a one-game lead on the Wildcats in the race to host the 2013 Big Sky Tournament, which is set for March 14-16.
• The next five seeds are up for grabs and the remaining nine league teams are all still mathematically alive for a postseason berth.
• The UND-NC tilt is the only Big Sky game on the calendar for this week as the two travel partners will play a rare Wednesday conference game before embarking on respective road trips as part of ESPN’s final season of its BracketBusters event. The other nine Big Sky teams are also participating in this weekend’s event sponsored by Ramada Worldwide.
• The Bears have won the four meetings between the two schools during their respective Division I eras, but UND owns a 40-20 edge in the all-time series. The Green and White won eight of the last 10 meetings as Division II foes.
• NC opened its 2012-13 Big Sky season by securing a comeback win in Grand Forks over UND. The Bears are just 6-9 in conference play since the victory, while UND has gone 8-6.
• UND led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but a 17-5 run by the Bears over the final four minutes allowed NC to pick up just one of two Big Sky road wins for the team.
• Junior Aaron Anderson led UND with 18 points in that contest and classmate Troy Huff chipped in with 14 points in what was his first action back from a jaw injury that sidelined him for eight contests.
• The last time UND won in Greeley was also the last time the two teams met as North Central Conference rivals. The Green and White won that contest 72-63 on Feb. 22, 2003.
• The rivalry resumed six seasons later (2008-09) when UND made the jump to Division I. The Bears held on for an 80-72 victory over a UND team in its first season of transition to the highest level of college basketball.
• Senior Mitch Wilmer equaled his career-high with 15 points in the December matchup with NC, which was his first action against the Bears. He was injured for both prior meetings during his career.
• Wilmer has six double-digit scoring games to his credit this season after recording just one his first three seasons of playing time. Two of those have come against Northern Arizona - a team UND had a chance defeat on Saturday, but the Lumberjacks found a way to force overtime and escape with a 74-72 victory.
• Wilmer had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Anderson finished with 24 points and Huff registered his second double-double of the weekend at home.
• Huff’s double-double was his fifth of the season and 10th of his career and it also marked the first time he posted one in consecutive games. He finished with 19 points and equaled his season-high with 11 rebounds. Huff had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the 49-48 victory over Sac State.
• Huff also moved into third place on UND’s career list for steals after equaling his career-high with five takeaways. He now has 130 in two-plus season.
• Anderson’s 24 points were a welcomed addition after he had just five points total in the two previous games. His 24-point effort was one shy of his career high.
• UND played without power forward Brandon Brekke (ankle) and shooting guard Josh Schuler (back), but did welcome back forward Doug Archer, who had missed five straight games with his own ankle issues. Archer only played three minutes.
• Since sweeping Eastern Washington and Portland State at home on Jan. 17-19 to move to 4-4 in Big Sky play, UND has split its last four Big Sky weeknds.
• Junior Jamal Webb added four more steals vs. Northern Arizona to give him 58 on the season, which is the fifth most by a UND player in a single season. He is the first player to wear the green and white that has registered three consecutive 50-plus steal seasons (52; 2010-11 and 57; 2011-12).
• Webb also closed within 11 (167) of Scott Guldseth, who owns UND’s all-time career record for steals with 178. He has 14 games this season with three or more steals and 29 for his career.
• Webb also had six assists against the Lumberjacks and now has 339 for his career - a total that ranks fifth on UND’s all-time charts.
• Anderson went 6-for-8 from the free throw line and now has 318 makes for his career, which puts him 10th on UND’s all-time charts in that category.
• Huff has already passed 12 former UND players on the school’s career scoring list after reaching the 1,000-point plateau vs. Eastern Washington on Jan. 17. He is now sits 18th with 1,187 career points.
• Redshirt freshman Shane Benton made his first career start vs. Northern Arizona, finishing with six points. Benton is averaging 9.3 ppg in UND’s last three Big Sky road games and has scored 31 of his 54 points this season in the last four games. Benton had a career-high 13 points and five rebounds in the win at Montana State.
• Brekke has equaled his season-high in rebounds with seven in the two games (both starts) before sitting out vs. NAU. He averaged 6.6 ppg and 4.8 rpg in 16 mpg in the five games he played after returning from his bout with a concussion.
• Brekke missed 11 games total after suffering the concussion in the loss to North Dakota State (Dec. 9). He did play five minutes in a game vs. Bowling Green (Dec. 29) before symptoms returned.
• Junior Josh Schuler, who had started 20 straight games since coming off the bench in the season opener at K-State, has missed the last four games with back spasms. His status is day-to-day. Schuler had played in all 87 games of his UND career up to the Montana State game on Feb. 7 .
• With the win over Idaho State on Feb. 2, head coach Brian Jones surpassed former NBA coaching legend Bill Fitch for fourth place on the all-time career wins list at UND. Fitch went 94-45 from 1963-67 and Jones now has 97 career wins.
MORE IN THE PAINT
• UND fell to 8-5 at home with its overtime loss to NAU on Feb. 16. UND went 13-1 at home during the 2011-12 season.
• 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 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 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 GWC Tournament in 2011 and 2012 anda advanced to the CIT Postseason Tournament both seasons.
• The Big Sky Tournament will be held at the home venue of the No. 1 seed and regular-season champion.
OPPONENT PREVIEW: NORTHERN COLORADO
• Head coach B.J. Hill has his Bears back in the hunt for a Big Sky Tournament berth after winning three straight in league play.
• The Bears are two years removed from winning the Big Sky Tournament and making their first NCAA Tournament appearance at the Division I level in 2011. NC went just 9-19 last season and tied for seventh in the Big Sky standings at 5-11.
• Hill is 2-0 against UND since taking over for Tad Boyle three seasons ago. Boyle is now the head coach at Colorado.
• The three-game streak has put NC at 7-9 in Big Sky play in a four-way tie for fifth in the league standings. The Bears are only a game behind UND and Southern Utah - the two teams tied for third in league play.
• Junior Derrick Barden scored a career-high 21 points in each of the past two games and with 14 rebounds against Sacramento State is now the only Big Sky player averaging a double-double in league play (13.9 ppg/10.0 rpg). He shared BSC POW honors announced on Monday.
• Senior Tate Unruh is one of the top 3-point shooters in the country (ninth overall), knocking down 44.4 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
• Unruh hit back-to-back 3-pointers to spark a 17-5 run in the closing four minutes of the first matchup with UND this season that saw the Bears erase what was once a 12-point second half deficit and post a 75-66 victory.
• Barden had 20 points in that victory on Dec. 21 after going 9-for-10 from the field. Unruh finished with 13 points, while Paul Garnica scored 14 off the Bears’ bench (4-for-5 from 3-point range). Tevin Svihovec rounded out a quartet of Bears in double figures with 15 points (10-for-11 FTs).
• The win over UND was one of just two road wins NC has registered on the road in league play. The Bears are 5-3 against league foes at the Butler-Hancock Athletic Center this season.
LAST TIME OUT
Northern Arizona 74, North Dakota 72 (OT) (Feb. 16) • Grand Forks, N.D.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Northern Arizona got the revenge it was looking for on Saturday at The Betty, edging North Dakota 74-72 in overtime to earn a season split with the Big Sky newcomer. UND had rallied in Flagstaff from a 22-point deficit to earn an 81-79 road win three weeks ago.
This one was just as intense down the stretch. Junior Aaron Anderson finished with 24 points and made a trio of 3-pointers in the extra session for the home team, but the Lumberjacks (10-16) found a way to scrape out a two-point win to improve to 7-9 in Big Sky play, while the loss drops UND (11-14) to 8-8 in conference action.
The backcourt of Gabe Rogers and Dewayne Russell carried NAU to the victory. Russell forced overtime with five points in the final minute of regulation, including a layup with 10 seconds left to tie it at 63-63.
Then, Rogers hit what would prove to be the decisive basket with just over a minute to play in overtime to put his team up by three. Rogers matched Anderson’s 24 points, while Russell scored 21 after only getting seven in the home loss to UND.
Junior Troy Huff registered a double-double for the second straight game, scoring 19 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, but the Lumberjacks held him scoreless in the final 12 minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime period.
HUFF’S RISING IN 1,000-POINT CLUB, ANDERSON IS CLOSING IN
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. Huff’s trey at the 13-minute of the second half brought his career total to 1,002 points as he became the 32nd UND player and just ninth junior to reach that milestone. Patrick Mitchell - a captain on last year’s squad - was the last UND player to add his name to this list. Mitchell finished his career with 1,136 points and stands in 21st now. Huff surpassed Mitchell with his 23-point outing at Montana and has moved up 14 spots to 18th (1,187) in the last eight games.
At some point over the next season and a half, Huff will likely have a couple of his classmates join him. Aaron Anderson is the next in line to reach the milestone (948 career points) and if his season average holds up (currently 13.4 ppg), he could do so by the end of the 2012-13 season. UND has never had two players reach the 1,000-point plateau in the same season.
UND has four games remaining in Big Sky play and at 8-8 and tied for third in the league standings. Here is a look at the four remaining opponents and who they have left in Big Sky play:
at Northern Colorado; Feb. 23 (7-9, lost 75-66 on Dec. 21 in Grand Forks)
vs. UND (Feb. 20), at EWU (Feb. 28), at PSU (March 2) and vs. SUU (March 7)
at Portland State; Feb. 28 (5-11, won 85-76 on Jan. 19 in Grand Forks)
vs. UND (Feb. 28), vs. NC (March 2), at WSU (March 7), at ISU (March 9)
at Eastern Washington, March 2 (6-10, won 65-47 on Jan. 17 in Grand Forks)
vs. NC (Feb. 28), vs. UND (March 2), at ISU (March 7), at WSU (March 9)
vs. Southern Utah, March 9 (8-8, lost 79-67 on Dec. 17 in Cedar City)
vs. MSU ( Feb. 28), vs. UM (March 4), at NC (March 7), at UND (March 9)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Junior Troy Huff is enjoying the best scoring season of his career, averaging 18.5 ppg in overall games and 19.3 ppg in Big Sky play. He qualifies for the scoring title in Big Sky play since he has played in 15 of UND’s 16 league tilts, but he’ll need to play in 75 percent of UND’s games to qualify for the overall title. The same standards apply for the NCAA where he would rank tied for 36th nationally in scoring entering the week if he had not missed eight games due to a broken jaw. With five regular season games remaining and a possible Big Sky Tournament berth, Huff could reach 75 percent of games played if UND were to make at least a two-game run in the postseason.
UND DRAWS OMAHA FOR BRACKETBUSTERS GAME
The North Dakota men’s basketball team added one more former North Central Conference foe to its 2012-13 schedule on Monday as ESPN officials announced that Omaha will play host to the Green and White during their annual Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters weekend. The game will take place Saturday, Feb. 23 at Omaha’s Ralston Arena. Tipoff time is set for 1 p.m.
This will be the final season of an 11-year run for the event that pits 122 NCAA Tournament hopefuls from 15 different mid-major conferences against each other. Omaha is in its second season of transition to the NCAA Division I level and first in the Summit League. The Mavericks are currently 9-19 overall and 6-9 in the Summit League, which puts them fifth in the standings of the nine-team conference. UND is currently 11-14 overall and 8-8 in its first season in the Big Sky. The 8-8 mark puts UND tied for third in the 11-team conference.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
UND has played four 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-point to give South Dakota State a 71-70 victory over the Greena 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.
WEBB WORKING HIS WAY TO THE TOP
Junior Jamal Webb has moved into second place on UND’s career charts for steals with 58 already this season. He tops the Big Sky charts, averaging 2.5 spg in league play and ranks 14th nationally in overall games (2.4/g). Webb is closing fast on UND’s career leader Scott Guldseth, who had 178 from 1989-93. He has 41 in 16 Big Sky games to give him 167 for his career. Webb also joined a new career top 10 recently, moving into fifth on UND’s all-time charts for assists with 339.
HUFF NETS FIRST TWO BIG SKY POW AWARDS
Junior Troy Huff was named the Big Sky Player of the Week on New Year’s Eve after his 14-point, 12-rebound outing in the 56-53 victory over Bowling Green. He was the first UND player to receive the honor from the team’s new conference. 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 after leading UND to pair of back-to-back home wins over Eastern Washington and Portland State.
WILMER CONTINUES TO PLAY WELL
Senior Mitch Wilmer has started the last 22 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 5.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 1.3 bgp for the season. He has scored 145 points this season, which is 62 more than he had in 55 career games entering the campaign. 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 Thunderbirds in UND’s Big Sky debut 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.
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 72.9 (1,200 of 1,654) percent of the team’s scoring through 23 games.
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 CBI Invitational.