Bears, Griz set for Saturday showdown
MISSOULA, Mont. -- Both Northern Colorado and Montana won Thursday night, so the stage is set for a first-place showdown Saturday night at Dahlberg Arena.
The Bears (14-9, 10-2 Big Sky) took care of their end of the bargain with an 86-77 victory against Montana State Thursday in Bozeman. Senior guard Devon Beitzel scored a season-high 31 to keep Northern Colorado a game up on the Grizzlies.
Montana (17-7, 9-3) had little trouble in its game Thursday, winning 64-44 against Sacramento State at home. Forward Kareem Jamar and center Brian Qvale scored 14 points apiece in the Griz's 11 home victory in 12 tries.
A victory Saturday night would give Northern Colorado a two-game lead in the Big Sky Conference regular-season race with just three games to play. A Montana win would tie the teams atop the standings and give them a split in head-to-head meetings after the Bears defeated the Griz 63-45 earlier this season in Greeley.
The league's regular-season champion earns at least a bid to the NIT and gets to host the Big Sky Championship, so both teams have a lot to gain Saturday night.
- Game 24: Northern Colorado (14-9; 10-2 Big Sky) vs. Montana (17-7, 9-3 Big Sky)
- When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12
- Where: Dahlberg Arena (7,500)
- Coaches: The Bears' B.J. Hill (14-9; 10-2 Big Sky) vs. Montana's Wayne Tinkle (86-60; 47-28 Big Sky)
- All-time series: The Grizzlies lead 10-5, with the first game coming during the 1970-71 season. UNC is 1-5 in Missoula.
- TV: None
- Radio: KFKA-AM 1310
- Live stream: www.b2tv.com
- Live stats: www.gogriz.com
THE BEARS' BASICS
- Northern Colorado is ranked No. 147 in the latest NCAA RPI report, coming in only behind Big Sky team Montana (106). Weber State (155) and Northern Arizona (161) are the only other league teams in the top 200. Montana State comes in at 223.
- Northern Colorado is ranked fifth in the country in team free-throw percentage in 2010-11 and it also ranks in the national top 50 in three-point field-goal percentage (15), rebounding margin (22), three-point field goals made per game (37), and 3-pointers per game (32).
- Northern Colorado senior Devon Beitzel enters Saturday's game as the nation's sixth-best free throw shooter at 91.4 percent on the year. Mississippi's Chris Warren (94.9) leads the country in free-throw shooting.
- Beitzel is the Big Sky's second-best scorer through the Bears' 22 games this season (19.2). He entered the season having averaged no higher than 14.3 points per game in a season (last season).
- Senior Chris Kaba is the Big Sky's fourth-best three-point shooter through the Bears' 23 games, pouring in long balls at a 46.7 percent clip. Teammmate Elliott Lloyd ranks sixth in the Big Sky (45.8) in the category.
- At 1,036 all-time victories (107 seasons) Northern Colorado basketball is the second-winningest program in school history (NC baseball has 1,423).
- With their 85-72 victory against Portland State on Saturday, Feb. 5, Northern Colorado became the first Big Sky team this season to clinch a spot in this year's Big Sky Championship.
- The Bears, who were first NCAA Division I postseason eligible in 2007, have now qualified for postseason play in three consecutive seasons (2009, 2010 and 2011).
- Northern Colorado was the fifth seed in the 2009 championship but fell to Idaho State in a quarterfinal game in Pocatello, Idaho. The Bears were the second seed last year but lost to Montana in the semifinals in Ogden, Utah.
MORE THREES, PLEASE!
- Northern Colorado senior Devon Beitzel enters this weekend with 203 made career 3-pointers and he's just the 12th player in Big Sky history with 200 career made 3-pointers.
- Beitzel is 12th on the league's all-time list, three behind Portland State's Brian Towne (1996-99), who made 206, and five behind Montana's Ryan Staudacher (2006-10), who finished with 208.
- Northern Arizona's Ross Land (1996-200) is the Big Sky's leading all-time three-point shooter. He made 308 long balls for the Lumberjacks.