Big Sky Conference

BIG SKY ROUNDUP: Weber outlasts UND; UND earns sixth BSC win



The middle of the pack in the Big Sky Conference men’s basketball standings is a crowded place with the third through sixth spots in the table separated by just one game. Montana suffered its third straight loss in Sacramento and lost for the second time this weekend at Sac State (click). Montana State climbed back into the hunt for a first-round bye at the upcoming conference tournament with a road sweep (click) while Idaho defended its home turf and earned its third straight win.

UND senior Quinton Hooker/ by Brooks Nuanez

UND senior Quinton Hooker/ by Brooks Nuanez

North Dakota 89, Idaho State 63 (click on line score for full box) — Senior Corey Baldwin scored a career-high 23 points and another dominant second half by North Dakota led the Fighting Hawks to a victory over Idaho State to cap a weekend sweep and move to 6-2 in Big Sky Conference play in Grand Forks on Saturday afternoon.

After trailing at the half for the second-straight game, UND (11-7 overall) blistered the nets once again after the break to rally for a league victory that keeps the Fighting Hawks near the top of the Big Sky standings.

Baldwin and crew knocked down 10 3-pointers on only 14 attempts after halftime. The Bridgeport, Conn., native buried five of those to give him a career-best seven makes from distance.

UND shot 74 percent from the floor in the second half in the six-point win over Weber State on Thursday and shot 67 percent today. The hot shooting allowed the Fighting Hawks to outscore the Bengals 54-28 after halftime.

UND’s first-half deficit could have been much larger as the Bengals (3-14, 1-5 BSC) raced out to a 26-11 lead in the opening eight minutes of the contest. The home team took that punch and settled in to erase that deficit with a 24-6 run that spanned nearly 10 minutes.

ISU would regain the lead late in the half and take a 36-35 advantage into its locker room. The lead would be short-lived for the visitors in the second half after UND’s Conner Avants opened the half with back-to-back baskets, then Baldwin drilled a pair of 3-pointers to give the Fighting Hawks a 10-0 start.

Junior Drick Bernstine, who finished with a season-high 14 points, put UND up 61-51 at the midway point and the home team’s advantage would never get back to single digits. Sophomore Cortez Seales added 12 points off the bench for UND, whose reserves outscored the Bengals’ bench 28-3 in what was the ninth-straight victory over ISU, who has yet to beat the Fighting Hawks as a Big Sky member.

Senior Quinton Hooker rounded out a quartet of double-figure scores for UND with 16 points. He also dished out a team-high six assists.

UND’s defense also limited ISU to just a 31 percent clip from the floor in the second half after the visitors shot 53.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes. Geno Luzcando and Novak Topalovic each led the Bengals with 18 points, while Ethan Telfair added 15.

Telfair, a first-team All-Big Sky performer from a year ago, opened the game 4-for-4 from the field and had 11 first-half points, but went just 2-for-17 after his hot start. Topalovic’s 18 points is a new career-high for the seven-foot sophomore. Telfair added a game-high seven assists.

EWU point-4 Bogdan Bliznyuk (32)

EWU point-4 Bogdan Bliznyuk (32)

Eastern Washington 83, Southern Utah 68 –Eastern Washington kept pace with excellent offensive execution in the first half.

Thanks in part to 21 points apiece by Bodgdan Bliznyuk and Jacob Wiley, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team continue to be a part of the logjam at the top of the Big Sky Conference standings by beating Southern Utah 83-68 Saturday at Reese Court in Cheney, Washington.

Eight Eagles scored and four had 3-pointers as the Eagles were dominating in the first 20 minutes of the game and opened a 47-22 lead at halftime. Eastern led by as many as 30 points in the second half before settling for the 15-point victory.

“When we are clicking on all cylinders our team looks pretty good,” Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said after his team moved to 5-2 in conference play, 13-7 overall. “The 22 points we gave up in the first half shows what we can do defensively. We were shooting well from outside and the drive game was going. But the second 20 minutes showed why we have to keep working hard at practice every day.”

Eastern had a 52 percent shooting night and held Southern Utah to 36 percent while blocking 10 Thunderbird shots. In the first half alone, Eastern’s defense held the Thunderbirds to 24 percent shooting and a 6:35 stretch without a field goal. The 22 points SUU scored equaled the second-fewest EWU has allowed in a half this season, while Eastern’s 47 points equaled the sixth-most in a half.

Bliznyuk and Wiley stuffed the stat sheet, with Bliznyuk finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds and equaling a career high with five steals. Wiley also had nine rebounds to go along with five assists, four blocks and a steal.

WSU guard Jeremy Senglin  /by Brooks Nuanez

WSU guard Jeremy Senglin /by Brooks Nuanez

Weber State 74, Northern Colorado 69 — Sophomore center Zach Braxton scored 17 points to lead Weber State to a 74-69 win over Northern Colorado Saturday night in Greeley. The win moved WSU to 10-7 on the season as the ‘Cats remained in first place in the Big Sky at 5-1.

Weber State led the entire first half and held a 37-34 lead at intermission. The ‘Cats largest lead was six points early in the second half before Northern Colorado rallied to take its first lead with 14:49 to play. There would be seven more lead changes down the stretch. UNC led by two with 5:53 to play when Weber State went on an 8-0 run to take a six point lead with under four minutes to play and never trailed again. WSU made four free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the win.

“It’s always a battle every time we come here and it was again tonight,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “We looked tired, especially early on, and had to dig deep and find a way. Several guys stepped up and we were able to make the plays we needed down the stretch.”

Braxton’s 17 points came in just 15 minutes of action and is just one off his career-high as he led the ‘Cats in scoring for the second time this season. The sophomore from nearby Highlands Ranch, Colorado, was 8-of-10 from the field and had two rebounds and two assists.

Senior Jeremy Senglin added 15 points and knocked down three 3-pointers and led the team with three assists. Cody John added nine points and Ryan Richardson, Jordan Dallas and Dusty Baker each had eight.

The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field made six 3-pointers. The ‘Cats scored 23 points off 21 Northern Colorado turnovers. The Bears out-rebounded Weber State 31-28 and shot 49 percent from the field.

Weber State will be back on the road at Idaho State Wednesday night to resume the Jan. 7 game that was suspended with the Wildcats leading 13-2 with 15:02 left in the first half. After that WSU will start a three-game homestand next Friday, Jan. 27 against Idaho State.

Sophomore Jordan Davis led UNC (7-12, 3-5 BSC) with 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Davis also dished a game-high four assists. The game was a close contest throughout with the largest lead never eclipsing six points.

Idaho head coach Don Verlin/ by Brooks Nuanez

Idaho head coach Don Verlin/ by Brooks Nuanez

Idaho 65, Northern Arizona 49 — Idaho (9-9, 4-3 BSC) picked up its third straight win thanks to 18 points off the bench from Brayon Blake. Blake shot 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line with seven rebounds. Victor Sanders led the Vandals’ starters with 17 points to go along with four assists and three rebounds.

Idaho took a 30-23 lead into the half, using a quick, 7-0 run late in the frame to break away. The Lumberjacks would cut the Vandal advantage to as little as two a couple of times early on in the second half and had it down to six on an Ako Kaluna jumper at 47-41 with 10:36 to play, but then the Idaho took over.

Idaho would go on a 13-0 run over the next 4:09, with four different Vandals contributing, to take a commanding lead. Northern Arizona would chip away for the remainder of the game, but the damage had been done.

“(The defense] was really good tonight,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “I thought we were very active and I thought our guys executed their gameplan very well. I was really happy with the defensive field goal percentages after the game, to hold them to 30 and 15 that’s a man’s effort and I was really happy about that.

The story of the night was the Idaho bench, outscoring the Lumberjacks 35-5. Blake was his best, scoring a team-high and career-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also connected on both of his 3-point attempts and grabbed seven boards.

As a squad, Idaho shot 40.4 percent (23-of-57) from the floor and 36.4 percent (8-of-22) from beyond the arc. The Vandals attempted just 12 free throws, way down from their usual average of nearly 23 per, but were successful on 11. Both teams finished with 37 boards.

Victor Sanders put in a solid night, hitting 7-of-14 shots and finishing with 17 points to go along with three rebounds and three dimes.

Senior Jordyn Martin’s 17 points led NAU (4-16, 1-6 BSC). Kaluna added 16 points and became the 29th NAU player to join the 1,000-point club.


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