Montana State (14-14) at Northern Arizona (13-16)

The Sports NetworkMarch 6, 2014 

GAME NOTES: Two teams still playing for their postseason lives meet in Flagstaff on Thursday, as the Montana State Bobcats take on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in a Big Sky Conference battle.

Montana State is just 3-3 in its last six games. The Bobcats fell at rival Montana on Monday night, 53-50. They are currently in a four-way tie for sixth place in the Big Sky, with only the top seven teams making the conference tournament.

Northern Arizona has been on the winning side lately as well, coming out ahead in its last two game, the most recent being a 73-71 overtime decision at Weber State this past Saturday. The Lumberjacks are in fourth place in the Big Sky, but only a game up on the logjam of teams in sixth, which includes the Bobcats.

Montana State beat the Lumberjacks at the buzzer in the first meeting between the two this season. Flavien Davis led the Bobcats with 19 points, while Michael Dison added 18. Aaseem Dixon led NAU with 18 points in Bozeman. Gaellan Bewernick scored 15, and Quinton Upshur chipped in 11.

The Bobcats are 3-4 on the road in Big Sky games this season. Davis leads the Bobcats with 14.2 ppg in conference play. The Lumberjacks are 31-13 versus MSU in Flagstaff. NAU defeated the Bobcats last season at home, 87-80.

In the recent loss to Montana, the Bobcats were paced by Davis and Paul Egwuonwu, who both dropped in 14 points and pulled down six rebounds. Shooting an even 50 percent from the field in the first half, Montana State led by as many as eight points with just under eight minutes to play before the break, but ended up trailing at intermission, 26-23. In the second half, the teams shot an identical 10-of-21 from the floor, but the Bobcats missed all five chances from behind the 3-point line, keeping them from overtaking the Grizzlies down the stretch.

The Bobcats are being narrowly outscored this season (69 ppg to 69.7 ppg). Davis is the lone Bobcat averaging double figures, as he puts up 12.7 ppg. Egwuonwu chips in with 9.7 ppg and leads the team on the glass with 6.6 rpg. The Bobcats do not do a good job of distributing the ball, averaging a league- worst 10.6 apg.

A 3-pointer by Quinton Upshur with 11 seconds remaining in overtime was just what the Lumberjacks needed as they slipped by Weber State. Upshur finished the night with 26 points for the victors, hitting 5-of-9 shots behind the arc. Also scoring in double figures for NAU was Max Jacobsen with 16 points before fouling out. The Lumberjacks were outscored at the free-throw line, 18-9, but made up for it with a 38-24 scoring edge in the paint.

Upshur carries the majority of the load on offense for the Lumberjacks, with his 16.3 ppg, thanks to a healthy 40.1 percent shooting effort from distance, which improves to a sensational 49 percent in Big Sky play. Unfortunately, the team as a whole, while hitting 3-pointers at a 35.3 percent clip, is falling behind opponents who are knocking down 40.1 percent of their long-range chances, putting them at the bottom of the Big Sky in 3-point defense. Max Jacobsen (12.1 ppg) and Aaseem Dixon (11ppg) have also been steady contributors for the Lumberjacks. As a unit, the Jacks are scoring 67.4 ppg but giving up 70.1 ppg, saddling them the second-worst scoring margin in the conference.

Both of these squads struggle to keep their opponents off the scoreboard, so expect a high-scoring affair. With this evenly-matched pair, the edge goes to the home team.

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