Courtesy: Brooks Nuanez, Skyline Sports
Head coach Brian Jones and junior guard Geno Crandall are 6-1 in Reno over the past three Big Sky Tournaments.
Notes: UND primed for quarterfinal bout with Griz
Release: 03/07/2018
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RENO, Nev. -- After a heroic comeback in the opening round of the Big Sky Tournament, it does not get any easier for No. 8 seed North Dakota as it next plays top-seeded Montana in Thursday’s first quarterfinal from Reno. Tip-off is set for 2:05 p.m. CT on Eleven Sports Network.

All-time: Montana leads 17-6
At Big Sky Tournament: First Meeting
Last Meeting: Montana 72, UND 67  (Feb. 3, 2018; Grand Forks) 
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Montana: 2-12
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Travis DeCuire: 0-7
Montana Head Coach Travis DeCuire vs. UND: 7-0
Montana Head Coach Travis DeCuire vs. Jones: 7-0

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• The Grizzlies rolled to the Big Sky regular-season title with a 16-2 record and swept the regular-season series from UND with a 109-79 win in Missoula (Jan. 4), then a much tougher 72-67 victory in Grand Forks (Feb. 3).
• The lastest victory was the seventh straight in the series for Montana, who the Fighting Hawks have not beaten since the 2014 regular season.
• UND advanced to the quarterfinal-matchup by rallying from a 19-point, second-half deficit to defeat Montana State 76-74 on Tuesday. Sophomore Marlon Stewart was the catalyst, scoring 14 of his career-high 29 points in the final 10:09 of the contest.
• 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.
• 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). With the thrilling win on Tuesday, Jones’ overall record in DI conference tournaments is 14-4 (9-3; Big Sky).

The winner of Thursday’s first quarterfinal will play the winner of the (4) Weber State vs. (5) Northern Colorado contest. UND split the regular-season series with Weber State, while dropping both contests to Northern Colorado. The Wildcats are the only team to knock UND out of the Big Sky Tournament.

UND has made 15, zero, 12, eight and 10 3-pointers in each of its last five 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 (Feb. 24). The 15 makes against NAU on Feb. 17 were a season-high and the 12 made in the win at Sacramento State (Mar. 1) were the second most in a game this season.

• UND improved to 6-1 all-time in Big Sky Tournament games played in Reno and now has won four straight dating back to last season’s title run.
• Junior Geno Crandall has reached double figures in all seven of his career Big Sky Tournament games (14.7 ppg).
• 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.
• 2017 Tournament MVP Quinton Hooker led five Fighting Hawks that averaged in double figures during the three games in Reno by scoring 19.3 ppg.

The North Dakota men’s basketball program holds a 1574-1054 (.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 152-166 in those contests.

North Dakota stormed back to erase a 19-point deficit in the final 10:09 and beat Montana State 76-74 in Tuesday’s opening round. Sophomore Marlon Stewart scored a career-high 29 points and senior Dale Jones hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the contest that gave UND its first lead of the game.

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. 10 Southern Utah (1-0 | 2-0)

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.

Junior Geno Crandall has moved into some exclusive lists in the UND record books this season. He’s averaging a team-best 16.6 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 15th with 1,329 points.

Crandall’s name is also already on the UND’s all-time steals chart in fourth with 185 (16th all-time in Big Sky) and is now seventh on the all-time assists chart with 372.

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)

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 32-for-53 from the floor (60.4 percent) and is averaging 15.4 ppg and 8.8 rpg.

After his career-high 29-point outburst in thhe opening round win over Montana State, sophomore Marlon Stewart is now second on the team in scoring at 11.8 ppg and has five 20-point plus scoring games on the campaign. He dropped in a career-high 24 points against Utah Valley (Nov. 25) and has reached double figures 15 times this season. He twice went for 20 or more against in-state rival NDSU during the home-and-home series with the Bison, scoring a team-high 23 in the home loss and 20 in the road win. He is also second on the team in assists (93; 3.0/g) and steals (42; 1.3/g). Stewart also has a pair of nine-assist games to his credit on the season with the latest coming in UND’s 86-81 victory over NAU when the Fighting Hawks equaled their season-high with 24 helpers, including having one on their first 21 made field goals.

Grad transfer Dale Jones has made a variety of contributions to the Fighting Hawks during his lone season with the program. He ranks ninth in the Big Sky in rebounding (6.4/g) and is averaging double figures at 11.4 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 62 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).

Slow starts were 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.

Sophomore Kienan Walter hit the game-winner vs. Montana State and is averaging 7.4 ppg in UND’s last five contests. Walter went 4-for-4 from the field vs. the Bobcats and scored 10 points off the bench. UND is now 4-0 this season when he reaches double figures against Big Sky foes.

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 five outings. In last Thursday’s win at Sacramento State, Brown scored a career-high 12 points in a career-high 33 minutes. He hit a trio of 3-pointers for the second time this season as well.

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.

• Head coach Travis DeCuire is in his fourth season leading the Griz and guided the team to the Big Sky regular-season title with a 16-2 record in league play. Overall, Montana is 25-7 and that’s the third 20-win season for DeCuire in his brief tenure at his alma mater.
• DeCuire has yet to lose to North Dakota in seven tries and his club put up a season-high 109 points in the fi rst matchup with the Fighting Hawks in Missoula.
• The Griz are 4-3 in Big Sky Tournament play under DeCurie and have lost twice in the title game (2015 and 2016).
• Oregon transfer Ahmaad Rorie was an All-Big Sky first teamer this season and leads the team in scoring at 16.9 ppg. In Big Sky play, Rorie averaged 16.2 ppg.
• Junior Michael Oguine was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and was one of three Grizzlies to average 15.0 ppg or better in leaegue action (15.9 ppg). He is one of the top rebounding guards in the Big Sky (5.5 rpg) and also added a team-best 42 steals.
• Junior Jamar Akoh recorded a pair of double-doubles in wins over UND this season, averaging 22.5 ppg and 11.0 rpg against the Fighting Hawks. The Cal-State Fullerton transfer is the team’s top rebounder (6.8 rpg) and averaged 13.6 ppg in his first season with the Griz.
• Sophomore Sayeed Pridgett is one of the top reserves in the league. He averaged 8.2 ppg and also chipped in with 4.2 rpg.
• DeCuire has used the same starting lineup in all 30 games for the Griz this season.
• Montana has been one of the top defensive teams in the Big Sky all season and the 67.9 ppg the Griz allow is the fewest in the league. The Griz lowered that figure to 67.1 ppg against league foes.

-- UND --

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