FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men’s basketball team entered the week with three formidable games on their schedule. After wins against Northern Colorado and Montana State, the Lumberjacks go for the homestand sweep Saturday in an important game against the league-leading Griz.
The Grizzlies are tied for first place with Northern Colorado in the league at 8-2 but are coming off a 68-52 loss at Weber State Thursday night. The Lumberjacks moved into third place overall with the win over Montana State, improving to 5-4 in league play after a 1-3 start.
“We have played two teams ahead of us in the standings and with two wins we have been able to move up,” said Head Coach Mike Adras, who became the Big Sky’s third winningest coach in conference play with his 95th win on Thursday. “It is a great way to finish the week and we want to keep winning games.”
The Lumberjacks have held their last three opponents and four of the last five to under 40 percent shooting for the game.
During the three-game win streak, NAU has held three Big Sky teams to just 60-for-168 (35.7) shooting. The Lumberjacks have held 11 teams to below 40 percent shooting for the game this season posting a 9-2 record in those games. Opponents have also shot just 13-for-60 (21.7%) from beyond the arc over the last three games.
“I think the guys’ understanding for what we are doing defensively along with their awareness on the court and effort and energy level has sky-rocketed,” said Adras. “I believe our defense keyed our offense on Thursday.”
Montana used a strong second half and held off a late rally by the Lumberjacks to win the Big Sky Conference opener over Northern Arizona last month 83-80.
The Griz started the second half with 6-0 run out of the locker room, eventually building a 16-point lead. Senior guard Will Cherry scored a team-high 27 points, including 21 points in the second half, for Montana.
Cherry, who injured his ankle against Weber State, is not expected to play in the game according to The Missoulian. He is the team’s leading scorer.
“It is part of the game,” said Adras of the potential injury. “You find ways to play and I am sure they are going to try and do the things they want to do. I don’t expect them to play any less in this ball game.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. from the Rolle Activity Center.