The Montana Grizzlies and Northern Arizona Lumberjacks have a history of heated battles, and Saturday’s one-off matchup in Flagstaff is shaping up to be one of the biggest in recent memory.
The Griz (12-13, 7-5 BSC) and Jacks (7-18, 4-8 BSC) enter the game each looking to extend streaks of one form or another, and with the Big Sky tournament looming, the outcome could have big implications.
THE GAME: UM and NAU will tip off at 7:30 on Sat. Feb. 11 in the Walkup Skydome, a place the Griz have only visited once under head coach Travis DeCuire, with UM needing double-OT to take a 90-84 win.
Montana is winners of its last two games, taking a key victory over rival Montana State to snap an uncharacteristic four-game slide, and following it up with a solid win over Southern Utah on Thursday.
Montana is now back in the W column, and setting its sights on finishing strong at the top of the league table with Reno on the horizon. A sweep of the NAU-SUU road trip could vault them up in the standings.
Northern Arizona has struggled this season and is 4-4 in their last eight games. But more importantly, NAU has won four-straight at home, including defeats over Portland State, North Dakota and Montana State.
Saturday’s game against NAU is the only meeting between the two schools this season, with no opportunity to even the score for the loser.
The Jacks are playing some of their best basketball of the season right now, meaning the Griz will have their work cut out for them.
WATCH/LISTEN: Fans around the world can watch UM at NAU live and free of charge on the league’s digital video streaming platform WatchBigSky.com, and via the Big Sky Conference Mobile App, available to download free from the App Store and on Google Play.
If you live in the American Southwest you can catch a tape delay of the game on FOX Sports Arizona at 10:30 p.m. (MT), which is available on DISH channel 415 and DirecTV channel 686. Fox Sports Arizona will also replay the game on Monday, February 13 at 11:30 a.m. (MT).
FOX College Sports Pacific will also air the game on tape delay on Sunday, February 12 at 1 a.m. (MT).
The “Voice of the Griz” Riley Corcoran will bring you the statewide radio call on the Montana Grizzlies Radio Network. An audio-only stream of the radio call is also available at GoGriz.com. Fans can also follow live twitter updates @UMGRIZZLIES_BB, and a link to live stats is available at gogriz.com.
SERIES HISTORY: The Griz lead the overall series with NAU 65-32, and have a 27-20 advantage when playing in Flagstaff. DeCuire has not dropped a contest against the Jacks, carrying a 4-0 record into the game.
LAST MEETING: Martin Breunig became the 30th player in UM history to reach the 1,000 career-point milestone on Valentine’s day 2016 with 29 points and 12 rebounds against the Lumberjacks in Missoula.
LAST TIME IN FLAGSTAFF: The Grizzlies broke a school record for made three-pointers in a game, netting 18 triples as a team. UM was led by Brandon Gfeller, who was a single three-pointer away from tying the school record with eight on the night for 24 points.
Despite UM dropping all those bombs, the Griz needed 2OT to get past the Jacks 90-84 on New Year’s Eve, 2015.
GRIZ TRACKS: Sayeed Pridgett had one of the biggest games of his young career on Thursday at Southern Utah with 19 points, the fourth time in his career he’s scored 19 or more.
The freshman from Oakland pushed himself into a starring role against the T-Birds with Ahmaad Rorie missing the second half of the game with an injury. His 19 point output was the third time in the last five games he’s scored in double figures after scoring a career-high 28 against Sacramento State.
Montana has not lost when holding opponents to 70 points or less. NAU is averaging 69.1 PPG on the season while allowing opponents to score 76.2 PPG.
At 7-5 in league play, Montana now has sole possession of fifth place on the Big Sky table and sits just one game out of a tie for third place, and two games back from a tie for second place.
To avoid ending up on the same side of the bracket as the league’s current No. 1 ranked Weber State, Montana will want to finish as the No. 2 or 3 seed. If UM fails to make the top five, a No. 6 or 7 seed will keep them on the opposite side of the bracket from Weber as well.
SCOUTING NAU: The Jacks have four players averaging in double figures, led by senior forwards Jordyn Martin (12.4 PPG) and Ako Kaluna (10.4 PPG), giving them one of the most robust low posts in the league.
Martin scored his eighth double-double of the season against Montana State on Thursday against the Bobcats with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
NAU’s four-game home win streak dates back to Jan. 14 when the Jacks beat Sacramento State.