UND MEN'S BASKETBALL: Road wins tough to secure
Before leaving for Cheney, Wash., on Wednesday, UND men’s basketball coach Brian Jones and his staff did a little research on the Big Sky Conference.
The results were not surprising. As the Big Sky season approaches the halfway mark, their research shows it’s difficult — if not close to impossible — to secure road wins in the massive, nine-state, three-time zone conference.
“Our league is No. 1 in the country in home wins,” said Jones. “Home teams are winning at an 82-percent clip.”
That’s not the best news for UND, which opens a stretch of four straight road games starting tonight at Eastern Washington. UND will play at Portland State on Saturday — a game that marks the halfway point of the league season.
Next week, UND travels to powerful Weber State, currently in first place, followed by a trip to Idaho State.
“It’s something I’m not trying to spend too much time thinking about,” said Jones of the season’s longest stretch of road games. “It’s definitely a tough situation.”
But there is a flip side to the demanding task at hand.
“The beauty of it is that we’re playing good basketball right now,” said Jones. “We do have some confidence. These are two teams we match up well against.
“The next two weeks are big for us. It’s kind of like moving week in my opinion. You can set yourself up for some really special things or you can be digging your way back if things don’t go well.”
UND has won three straight, highlighted by a complete-game 84-68 win over Northern Arizona last Saturday.
It was perhaps UND’s best overall performance of the season against the Lumberjacks as UND — which had ranked last in 3-point Bi Sky shooting (31 percent) hit a season-high 13 three-pointers.
UND is 5-3 in the league and 8-10 overall. Eastern Washington is 3-5 and 8-11 but has the league’s top scorer in sophomore Tyler Harvey (21.0 ppg).
UND’s Troy Huff had been the Big Sky’s top scorer but now ranks second at 19.9.
That’s probably a good thing, however. In its three-game win streak, UND has received much more balanced scoring. North Dakota big men Alonzo Traylor and Ryan Salmonson both have produced big points during the streak.
And guard Cole Stefan, a Green Bay transfer, is beginning to find his stride as a perimeter scorer.
“We have a cohesive team, on and off the floor,” said Stefan. “We like to hang out together. I think you’re starting to see that on the floor, too. We’re sharing the ball a lot better, especially against zone defenses. When that happens, we’ll be tough to beat.”
Who: UND at Eastern Washington.
When: 8 tonight, Cheney, Wash.
Radio: Cat Country (100.3 FM).
Records: UND 5-3, 8-10; EWU 3-5, 8-11.
Of note: Last week, Troy Huff moved into fifth place all time on the UND scoring list, surpassing Phil Jackson.