GAME NOTES: The Montana State Bobcats will try to keep pace at the top of the Big Sky Conference standings, as they host North Dakota at Worthington Arena.
North Dakota is in the midst of a two-game slide, having dropped double-digit decisions to both Weber State (72-60) and Montana (84-71). The team is now 5-9 overall, including a 2-2 split of its conference tests, and has no wins in five chances on the road. UND returns home to face Sacramento State next.
Montana State captured a 70-55 victory over Northern Colorado to kick off a two-game homestand on Thursday. The victory moved the Bobcats to 9-7 overall and 4-1 in league action, which has them tied with UNC and Northern Arizona for first place in the Big Sky. Up next is a trip to Weber State.
This is just the second season for North Dakota in the Big Sky. It faced Montana State twice last year and won both meetings to pull ahead in the all- time series, 9-8.
North Dakota shot 53.7 percent from the floor against Montana, but it was not enough to make up for a 32-20 scoring deficit at the free-throw line or a 19-9 disadvantage in points off turnovers. Troy Huff paced the visitors in the loss with 24 points.
Huff (21.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.4 spg) is clearly the most important player on the roster for North Dakota. The 6-foot-5 swingman leads the conference in scoring and steals. He has been in double figures in all but one game this season and has a pair of double-doubles to his name. Jaron Nash (11.6 ppg) and Aaron Anderson (10.2 ppg) are the next best options on the roster. Anderson tallied 14 points and six assists off the bench against Montana, while Nash was held scoreless in his 14 minutes on the floor. As a unit, North Dakota is near the middle of the conference pack in terms of scoring (72.9 ppg) and field goal percentage (.445).
Montana State used a 14-2 scoring advantage off turnovers, while limiting the opposition to 1-of-12 accuracy from behind the 3-point line, in its win over Northern Colorado. Paul Egwuonwu finished with a team-high 13 points, and Michael Dison chipped in with 12.
The Bobcats are scoring just a bit better than North Dakota at the moment, connecting on 46 percent of their field goal attempts in netting 73.1 ppg. They have also been solid defensively, allowing 69 ppg on 45.8 percent shooting. Balance is the mantra for the Bobcats, with Flavien Davis (10.9 ppg) the top scorer on a team that features nine players averaging at least five ppg. Egwuonwu (9.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is the second-best scorer, and is also among the top-five players in the conference in rebounds.
Worthington Arena has certainly been a favorable location for Montana State this season, as it is 6-1 on its home floor. The balanced Bobcats should add to that win total against a North Dakota team that is too reliant on one player.
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