North Dakota (3-8) at Idaho State (1-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 3, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Holt Arena (8,000) -- Pocatello, Idaho. Television: None. Home Record: North Dakota 3-2, Idaho State 1-0. Away Record: North Dakota 0-6, Idaho State 0-7. Neutral Record: North Dakota 0-0, Idaho State 0-3. Conference Record: North Dakota 0-2, Idaho State 0-2. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Idaho State Bengals will play just their second home game of the season on Thursday night when they entertain North Dakota in a Big Sky Conference showdown at Holt Arena.
North Dakota has not found much success this season, as it sits with a 3-8 record, but it is coming off a 56-53 come-from-behind victory over Bowling Green last Friday. In its first season as a member of the Big Sky, North Dakota has not gotten off on the right foot, with losses to Southern Utah (79-67) and Northern Colorado (75-66) to open up its league slate.
Perhaps the only Big Sky team off to a worse start than North Dakota is Idaho State, which following a humiliating 74-39 loss at Washington State last Saturday fell to 1-10. While the Bengals are winless in 10 combined games on the road or on a neutral floor, they have won their only previous game at Holt Arena, defeating Montana Western on Nov. 29, 70-52.
These two teams met for the first time last season, and they earned a split of the season series with each winning on its home floor.
Down by as many as nine points in the first half against Bowling Green, North Dakota climbed its way back into the game and with under a minute remaining, Jamal Webb connected on a 3-pointer to give it a 54-53 lead, and a pair of Troy Huff free throws later would seal the deal. The team may have shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, but it easily won the rebounding battle, 42-25, and got timely production from both Webb (12 points, seven rebounds) and Huff (14 points, 12 rebounds). A lack of efficiency has been problematic for UND all season, as it makes just 40 percent of its field goal attempts for an average of 64.3 ppg, which all but spoils a solid defensive effort which yields 66.7 ppg. After missing eight games, Huff (13.3 ppg) has been a big boost to the lineup, scoring 14 points in each of the last two contests. Aaron Anderson nets 12.0 ppg, but that average jumps all the way up to 17.0 ppg in the two Big Sky tilts. Webb has been a solid contributor across the board with 8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.1 apg and 2.3 spg.
While North Dakota hasn't had much success at the offensive end of the court this season, its struggles don't compare with those of Idaho State, which at 49.0 ppg, is the lowest scoring team in Division I. The team's woeful shooting continued in the 39-point effort against Washington State, making just 16- of-43 from the field (.372) and 1-of-9 from the foul line (.111), while also getting obliterated on the glass, 43-16. The lone bright spot in the setback for the Bengals was Chris Hansen, who drained 4-of-9 tries from 3-point range on his way to 12 points. On the season, only Melvin Morgan averages double- digits on a nightly basis with 12.4 ppg, but his output from beyond the arc has been lackluster at best (10-of-56). Tomas Sanchez brings some playmaking ability to the point guard position with 8.5 ppg, 3.4 apg and 1.7 spg.
Something has to give in this battle of struggling squads. Idaho State will surely enjoy playing at home for the first time in more than a month, but the Bengals will be hard-pressed to win given their scoring woes, even against a team as shaky as North Dakota.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota 56, Idaho State 54
01/03 10:44:24 ET