GAME NOTES: Two of the four teams tied for second place in the Big Sky Conference standings meet up at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion tonight, as the Northern Colorado Bears host the Montana Grizzlies.
Sporting the same 7-5 conference record as both North Dakota and Northern Arizona heading into play on Thursday, the Bears are trying to bring an end to a four-game slide that began with an 80-57 blowout loss to Portland State on Jan. 30 and continued with a 79-65 setback versus Weber State over the weekend.
As for Montana, it is heading in the opposite direction right now, enjoying a four-game win streak. The squad may be a game under .500 on the road at 5-6, but the current run of success began with victories at Southern Utah and Montana State and followed with home wins over Portland State and Eastern Washington last week.
In terms of the all-time series, Montana is ahead by a count of 16-7, although the Bears were the ones to win the first meeting of the season last month on the road, 84-73. It should also be noted that UNC is undefeated at home this season through 11 contests.
One of four players to score in double figures for Montana last Saturday, Kareem Jamar dropped in 23 points and pulled down six rebounds for the Grizzlies as they notched the win over Eastern Washington at home. Jordan Gregory contributed another 14 points, Keron DeShields 13 and Mike Weisner 11 points off the bench, as the team held the visitors to just 38.7 percent shooting from the floor and 5-of-22 behind the 3-point line.
A starter in every game this season for Montana, Jamar is posting a team-best 19.6 ppg as he plays close to 37 minutes per outing. Not only is he the top scorer for the program, he also paces the group with 5.6 rpg and 92 assists, one of a rare breed of college player who can claim to be leading his team in all three major categories. Gregory (14.2 ppg) and DeShields (12.9 ppg) are also key contributors for a squad generating 72.5 ppg at the moment.
Against a resurgent Weber State squad over the weekend, the Bears fell apart in the second half as they shot only 34.4 percent from the floor, including 1- of-8 behind the 3-point line, as well as 10-of-18 at the free-throw line, en route to the 79-65 setback. Tate Unruh stepped up with 18 points, hitting 4- of-9 beyond the arc, followed by Derrick Barden with 11 points, but no one else on the roster had more than three field goals for UNC.
The only player to have started all 21 games for the Bears, it only makes sense that Barden is also the leading scorer for the program at the moment with his 13.6 ppg, accounting for a team-best 8.3 rpg as well. Unruh checks in with 12.0 ppg, having converted a team-high 46 3-point baskets, and that has helped the Bears to be 38.5 percent accurate out on the perimeter this season.
Expect Barden to bounce back from a sub par effort the last time out, as a solid UNC squad gets back on track in front of the home crowd.
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