The first game of the night was Weber State traveling to take on North Dakota. The final score was 66-51, but it was a competitive game for most of the day. The Wildcats took a 29-26 lead into the break, and led by as many as 14 early in the second half, hinting that the game might be over. However, UND had other plans, cutting the lead down to five multiple times in the second half, threatening to pull an upset.
However, WSU had too much Davion Berry and too much Frank Otis. Berry scored 21 points (17 in the second half), and it seemed like whenever the Wildcats needed a big basket, he was there to provide it. He was 7/13 from the floor, including knocking down three treys. Otis was the rock throughout, finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds, including shooting 8/11 from the field. He has been big for them this year.
Weber State moved to 9-2 in the Big Sky, while UND fell to 5-6. North Dakota needs to beat Idaho State on Saturday.
Idaho State will be coming into Grand Forks after a loss to Northern Colorado in a game where the Bears were simply unconscious. I will just let Zach Bond describe it:
The Bears made 15-of-21 from three-point range and bested the previous Division I mark of 68.8 percent, set in 2009 (minimum of 10 makes).At one point in the second half the Bears made 10 straight threes. You are not going to lose when you shoot the ball like that. Paul Garnica led the way with 21 points, draining 6/8 from downtown. He spent the early part of the season in Coach Hill's doghouse it seemed, so the fact that he is contributing big minutes and big production is enormous for the Bears. He has the talent to be one of the best sixth men in the Big Sky.
Those 15 3-pointers was also a season high for the Bears and the most the team's made in a single game since the 2009-10 season. They were so proficient from outside that they actually finished the game with more made 3-pointers (15), than 2-pointers (12).
UNC is simply a different team at home, and they have a chance to prove it Saturday night against Weber State. Win that, and they will be back in the thick of thing for a top 4 spot.
The team most everyone pegged as number three in the Big Sky, Montana State, promptly went into Eastern Washington and lost, as the Eagles prevailed 72-68. At times in the second half, EWU looked like they would win fairly comfortably, but MSU kept battling back all game. Coach Jim Hayford thinks they will be better for it:
“This was a good win,” Hayford said. “Right now we are building this program with our (young) team. We gut checked it (at the end), and we finished it out with some adversity through the end. That’s good because it’s a growing point. We have had some times where we have hit adversity and not grinded it out. It is really important for us to taste that, and to have success.”The Eagles played perhaps their best defense of the season, holding MSU to 30% shooting. Collin Chiverton led the way with 20 points, including 5/5 free throws, which is a good sign. He is a good outside shooter, but he is at his best when he is being aggressive, and not simply settling for the first decent look that comes along.
The Eagles move to 4-7 and are right back in things, while MSU drops to 6-5 and re-enters a tie for third place.
It was a tale of two halves in Cedar City.
After the first half, Sacramento State led 39-26, and you will have to forgive me for thinking like the Hornets looked like the third best team in the Big Sky after that. That's because in the second half, Southern Utah outscored them 53-28, notching an impressive 79-67 win.
Damon Heuir led the way for the Thunderbirds, with an impressive stat line - 28 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists. Jackson Stevenett also pitched in 20 points and six rebounds, as SUU shot 60% in the second half, holding Sac State to shooting 4/23 from the floor during that time.
I am not afraid to say this - I have been underrating Southern Utah all season long, and they keep proving me wrong. Nick Robinson has does an exceptional job in his first year, and he has the TBirds in great position. With their toughness and defense, they are a team that other won't want to see come conference tournament time.
In the nightcap, it was Montana dispatching Portland State to stay perfect in the Big Sky. The Grizzlies won 81-68 and the game never really seemed to be in doubt in the second half. Will Cherry led Montana with 16 points, 6 assi
Mathias Ward chipped in 15 and Keron DeShields had 13 for the Griz, who move to 11-0 and maintain their two game Big Sky lead.
On the other hand, Portland State drops to 3-8 in the Big Sky, and is suddenly facing a really big game on Saturday. If they lose to Montana State, they are on the edge of being pushed out of the race. PSU just can't seem to get production from more than a couple of players per night. Defense was their downfall against Montana, giving up 1.27 points per possession.
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