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Courtesy: Russell Hons for UNDsports.com
Junior Cortez Seales averaged 10.3 ppg off the bench in UND's three victories in Reno a season ago.
Notes: Fighting Hawks start title defense Tuesday
Courtesy: UNDsports.com
Release: 03/05/2018
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RENO, Nev. -- The defending Big Sky Tournament champions will open their title defense on Tuesday against No. 9 seed Montana State in Reno. No. 8 seed North Dakota (11-19; 6-12 BSC) has never met the Bobcats (13-18; 6-12 BSC) in the league tournament, but this will be the 27th overall meeting between the border rivals.

This will be the final league tournament for the Fighting Hawks, who own an 8-3 record in four previous appearances (did not qualify for 2015 tournament in Ogden).

Tip-off is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. CT from the Reno Events Center in what will be the opening game of the men's tournament. Live streams of the contest are available on Pluto TV Ch. 231 and WatchBigSky.com.

UND VS. MONTANA STATE SERIES
All-time: UND leads 14-12
At Big Sky Tournament: First Meeting
Last Meeting: UND 75, MSU 74  (Feb. 1, 2018; Grand Forks) 
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Montana State: 7-4
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Brian Fish: 4-3
Montana State Head Coach Brian Fish vs. UND: 3-4
Montana State Head Coach Brian Fish vs. Jones: 3-4

WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
Radio: 100.3 FM (GF) | 740 AM (Fargo) | Paul Ralston (pbp)
Audio: www.UNDSports.com
Live Stats: www.BigSkyStats.com
Live Stream: WatchBigSky.com | Pluto TV Ch. 231

IN THE PAINT...
• The Fighting Hawks finished their six-year run of Big Sky regular-season games with a 58-54 record, including its best showing of 14-4 during its title run last season.
• UND finished 6-12 this season, tying for eighth with Montana State after falling in overtime to Portland State 97-90 on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks won the tiebreaker with the Bobcats because No. 4 seed Weber State is the highest seed either team defeated after splitting two regular-season matchups.
• The eighth seed is the lowest UND will carry into its fifth Big Sky Tournament.  The Fighting Hawks have reached at least the semifinal in each of their four previous appearances, including two title-game tilts.
• This is UND’s seventh conference tournament appearance at the Division I level and head coach Brian Jones has guided his team to six-straight semifinals, appeared in four title games and won three championships (2011 Great West, 2012 Great West and 2017 Big Sky).
• Jones overall record in DI conference tournaments is 13-4 (8-3; Big Sky).

IN THE PAINT...
• The defending Big Sky Tournament champions will be the No. 8 seed in the 2018 edition in Reno. This will be the final league tournament for the Fighting Hawks, who own an 8-3 record in four previous appearances (did not qualify for 2015 tournament in Ogden).
• The Fighting Hawks finished their six-year run of Big Sky regular-season games with a 58-54 record, including its best showing of 14-4 during its title run last season.
• UND finished 6-12 this season, tying for eighth with Montana State after falling in overtime to Portland State 97-90 on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks won the tiebreaker with the Bobcats because No. 4 seed Weber State is the highest seed either team defeated after splitting two regular-season matchups.
• The eighth seed is the lowest UND will carry into its fifth Big Sky Tournament.  The Fighting Hawks have reached at least the semifinal in each of their four previous appearances, including two title-game tilts.
• This is UND’s seventh conference tournament appearance at the Division I level and head coach Brian Jones has guided his team to six-straight semifinals, appeared in four title games and won three championships (2011 Great West, 2012 Great West and 2017 Big Sky).
• Jones overall record in DI conference tournaments is 13-4 (8-3; Big Sky).

ON THE HORIZON
Big Sky regular-season champion and No. 1 seed Montana awaits the winner of the UND-Montana State contest. Tip-off for Thursday’s first quarterfinal is set for 2:05 p.m. CT.

GO FIGURE
UND has made 15, zero, 12 and eighth 3-pointers in each of its last four contests. The Fighting Hawks had made at least one 3-pointer in all 364 of their Division I contests before going 0-for-8 against Northern Colorado last Saturday (Feb. 24). The 15 makes against NAU on Feb. 17 were a season-high and the 12 made in Thursday’s win at Sacramento State were the second most in a game this season.

ON THE HORIZON
Big Sky regular-season champion and No. 1 seed Montana awaits the winner of the UND-Montana State contest. Tip-off for Thursday’s first quarterfinal is set for 2:05 p.m. CT.

GO FIGURE
UND has made 15, zero and 12 3-pointers in each of its last three contests. The Fighting Hawks had made at least one 3-pointer in all 364 of their Division I contests before going 0-for-8 against Northern Colorado last Saturday (Feb. 24). The 15 makes against NAU on Feb. 17 were a season-high and the 12 made in Thursday’s win at Sacramento State were the second most in a game this season.

RECORD REWIND
The North Dakota men’s basketball program holds a 1573-1054 (.602) all-time record since Dr. George Sweetland led the first team onto the court in 1904-05. UND is 949-285 (.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 151-166 in those contests.

LAST TIME OUT
UND overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to force overtime at Portland State, but the Vikings got eight-straight points from senior Bryce Canda after UND grabbed atwo-point lead midway through the session. Senior Dale Jones scored 15 of his team-high 21 points after halftime and connected on a trio of 3-pointers in the loss. Junior Geno Crandall added 17 points and forced the extra session by making a free throw after missing his first attempt with 3.2 seconds to play.

UND AGAINST THE FIELD
Team (2017-18 | BST)
No. 1 Montana (0-2 | 0-0)
No. 2 Idaho (0-2 | 1-0)
No. 3 Eastern Washington (0-2 | 0-0)
No. 4 Weber State (1-1 | 1-3)
No. 5 Northern Colorado (0-2 |0-0)
No. 6 Portland State (0-1 | 2-0)
No. 7 Idaho State (1-1 | 1-0)
No. 9 Montana State (1-1 | 0-0)
No. 10 Southern Utah (1-0 | 2-0)
No. 11 Sacramento State (1-0 | 1-0)
No. 12 Northern Arizona (1-0 | 0-0)

RENO ROUNDUP
• In 2017, it took overtime, but UND finally found a way to solve the Weber State riddle at the Big Sky Tournament, defeating the Wildcats 90-82 to punch the program’s first ticket to the Big Dance.
• Tournament MVP Quinton Hooker led five Fighting Hawks that averaged in double figures during the three games in Reno by scoring 19.3 ppg.
• In 2016, sophomore Drick Bernstine set a Big Sky Tournament single-game record with 21 rebounds in the 83-49 win over Idaho State last season in Reno.
• The 34-point rout of the Bengals was also the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s history.

HEAD SCRATCHER
UND is one of only 21 teams in the country with five players averaging double figures. Each of those five players has started at least 25 of the team’s 30 games, but not once have all five of them reached double figures in the same game.  In fact, the only two times UND has had five players reach double figures in the same game were the Fighting Hawks only two road wins of the season.

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 16.4 ppg and his 28-point outing at Idaho State (Feb. 10) 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 17th with 1,311 points.

Crandall’s name is also already on the UND’s all-time steals chart in fourth with 182 (16th all-time in Big Sky) and is now seventh on the all-time assists chart with 369.

Crandall’s Career Single-Game Highs
Points: 41 (vs. Troy; 11/10/17)
Assists: 9 (vs. Southern Utah; 1/26/17)
Steals: 6 (at Sacramento State; 3/1/18)

AVANTSING HIS GAME
After going without a double-double in his first two collegiate seasons, junior Conner Avants  has registered a team-leading three this season. Two of those have come against Northern Colorado, who he scored 19 points on and pulled down a career-high 12 boards against last Saturday (Feb. 24). He picked up his second double-double of the season in the home loss to Montana (Feb. 3)  just four games after picking up the initial one of his career at UNC (Jan. 20).

In the past five games, Avants is 30-for-51 from the floor (58.8 percent) and is averaging 15.2 ppg and 8.4 rpg.

SENIOR SALUTE
Grad transfer Dale Jones has made a variety of contributions to the Fighting Hawks during his lone season with the program. Unfortunately, back spasms held him out of UND’s home finale with Northern Colorado (Feb. 24), but he enters Reno ranked ninth in the Big Sky in rebounding (6.4/g) and is averaging double figures at 11.5 ppg.  The 6-foot-8 forward also ranks among the Big Sky’s top 10 in 3-pointers made (2.1/g, t9th) and has 59 makes overall. He has made four or more 3-pointers six different times this season, including a pair of 5-trifecta games. In his Big Sky debut, Jones recorded the first double-double of his Division I-career, scoring 20 points and pulling down 11 rebounds vs. Eastern Washington on New Year’s Eve. He had a team-high 21 in the regular-season finale at Portland State (Mar.3).

GET MOVING
Slow starts have been one of the bigger issues for the Fighting Hawks in their 12 Big Sky losses so far this season. In those 12 league setbacks, opponents are outscoring UND 508-382 in the first half (42.3 to 31.8) and have held the halftime lead on 11 occasions and were tied once. The Fighting Hawks have produced much better in the second halves of those contests, averaging 39.3 ppg after the break. During UND’s six Big Sky victories, the Fighting Hawks are outscoring opponents 216-189 (36.0 to 31.5) and have held a halftime lead in five of those six contests.

WALTER COMES THROUGH
UND has won three of its last five heading into Reno and in those three victories, sophomore Kienan Walter is averaging 11.0 ppg. Walter went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in last Thursday’s win over Sacramento State and the Fighting Hawks are 3-0 in Big Sky play when he reaches double figures. The four 3-pointers were a career-high for Walter, who is shooting 35 percent from deep on the season.

BILLY, BILLY
Sophomore Billy Brown had not reached double figures in UND’s first 27 games, but the sophomore has a pair of double-figure scoring games in the last four outings. In Thursday’s win at Sacramento State, Brown scored a career-high 12 points in a career-high 33 minutes against the Hornets. He hit a trio of 3-pointers for the second time this season as well.

THE POWER OF EIGHTY
For just the fourth time in the past two seasons, UND dropped a contest when it scored at least 80 points after falling 97-90 in overtime at Portland State (Mar. 3). The Fighting Hawks own a 24-4 record in those contests and their first two losses were against ranked opponents (100-82 vs. Arizona; NCAA Tournament and 89-83 OT loss at Gonzaga). So far this season, the Fighting Hawks are 8-3 when scoring 80-plus with all three of those losses coming in overtime.

OPPONENT PREVIEW: MONTANA STATE
• Head coach Brian Fish is in his fourth season leading the Bobcats’ program.
• The Bobcats started 4-0 in Big Sky play, including a 79-68 victory over UND on Jan. 6, but won only twice in the remaining 14 games. MSU owns a 13-18 overall record entering play in Reno.
• In fact, MSU arrives at the tournament having dropped its last six contests, including a 95-92 overtime setback to Weber State on Saturday.
• Preseason All-Big Sky Player of the Year Tyler Hall was Jekyll and Hyde against the Fighting Hawks in two games this season. In the home win, Hall went for 25 points and buried five 3-pointers. In the road loss, Hall was held to six points on 1-of-11 shooting and did not connect on a 3-pointer. His fifth miss was a potential game-winner that caromed off at the buzzer.
• Hall leads the Bobcats in scoring at 18.1 ppg and his 96 3-pointers made on the campaign are the second most in the league.
• Sophomore point guard Harald Frey is the only other Bobcat averaging in double figures. He scores at a 13.3 ppg clip and averaged 17.5 ppg against UND this season.
• Southern Miss transfer Keljin Blevins averaged double figures in league play (10.2 ppg) and was the team’s top rebounder at 5.7 rpg.
• Grad transfer Konner Frey has been playing well of late.  He’s averaging 7.1 ppg and upped that to 8.2 ppg league play. He led the Bobcats with 24 in the regular-season finale, which marked the first time Frey led MSU in scoring this season.
• Both MSU and UND rank towards the bottom in key defensive categories. The Cats surrender 79.0 ppg (9th in the Big Sky), while UND is 12th, giving up 81.8 ppg.

-- UND --

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