GAME NOTES: In the second part of a two-game homestand, the Montana State Bobcats continue their work in Big Sky Conference play against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Worthington Arena on Saturday night.
The Lumberjacks are remaining in the Treasure State after topping Montana, 73-65, in the second leg of a three-game road trip on Thursday. The win was the second in the last three games for NAU, which is just 4-8 overall and 2-5 on the road. Up next is a home date against Sacramento State.
Montana State also captured a victory in its first league matchup, defeating Sacramento State, 70-55, on Thursday night. That win was the fourth in the last five games for the Bobcats, who are a superior 6-6 overall, including a 4-1 mark at Worthington Arena. Montana State plays its next two games on the road against Portland State and Eastern Washington.
This has historically been a tight series, with NAU clinging to a 46-44 advantage. The two teams split the season series a year ago, with the home team prevailing each time.
Aaseem Dixon scored 23 points and Max Jacobsen netted 21 to carry Northern Arizona past Montana. The Lumberjacks trailed, 37-29, at halftime, but rallied after the break by connecting on a scorching 77.3 percent from the floor, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, in the final 20 minutes.
The 73 points NAU scored on Thursday were the most tallied by the Lumberjacks since an 83-59 win over San Diego Christian at the end of November. They are normally not a very potent squad, netting just 65.4 ppg and shooting 42.7 percent from the floor, both marks ranking ninth in the Big Sky. Jacobsen (14.3 ppg, 5 rpg) and Quinton Upshur (14.3 ppg) share the role of leading scorer. Upshur may have fallen behind Dixon and Jacobsen on Thursday, but he still finished with 18 points. Dixon (12.4 ppg) is the third member of the team averaging in double figures.
Montana State erupted from 3-point range to push past Sacramento State. The Bobcats nailed 13-of-29 shots from beyond the arc, while allowing only six 3- pointers to the Hornets. Calen Coleman (13 points) and Marcus Colbert (11) each recorded three treys to lead the way.
The Bobcats are not a team that relies on just one or two scorers, preferring a more balanced approach. Flavien Davis (10.2 ppg) is the only player averaging in double figures, but there are a total of nine players putting in at least five ppg. Colbert (9.8 pg, 3.4 apg) is the second-leading scorer on the roster, as well as the leader in assists, although Antonio Biglow (7.4 ppg, 3.3 apg) is also a strong passer. Coleman (9.2 ppg) is hitting 36.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, and has had at least two triples in all but four games this season. Paul Egwuonwu (8.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) leads the squad on the boards.
The Bobcats' balance has led to much more offensive success than the Lumberjacks have found. Expect Montana State to use that advantage on its home floor to lock up another win.
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