Courtesy: Dean Hendrickson
Senior Dale Jones is averaging a double-double in five home games this season, scoring 10.4 ppg and pulling down 10.2 rpg.
Notes: Hot Bengals present tall task for UND
Release: 01/09/2018
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The North Dakota men's basketball team returns home looking to get back into the win column against the hottest team in the Big Sky. Idaho State is unbeaten early on in Big Sky play and have won eight of nine overall after dropping their first five to open the season. Tip-off against the Bengals is slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday.

UND leads 11-1
In Pocatello: UND leads 6-0
Last Meeting: UND 77, ISU 61 (Feb. 16, 2017; Pocatello)
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Idaho State: 11-1 
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Evans: 10-0
Idaho State Head Coach Bill Evans vs. UND: 0-10
Idaho State Head Coach Bill Evans vs. Jones: 0-10

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• ISU will be the third-straight conference foe bringing an undefeated record (3-0) in league play up against the Fighting Hawks, who have not won since a late November victory over Presentation College.
• The eight-game losing skid is the longest for the program since dropping the final nine games of the 2014-15 season.
• UND was swept last week in the Treasure State when league-leaders Montana (4-0) and Montana State (4-0) both posted double-digit victories against the Fighting Hawks.
• Fortunately for UND, the Bengals are coming to an arena where they are winless in six previous tries. The Fighting Hawks have also won all nine regular-season Big Sky matchups against Idaho State.
• UND’s edge in the all-time series is at 11-1 with the Bengals’ lone victory coming in the 2011-12 season when the teams split a non-conference, home-and-home series.
• This is the sixth and final season in the Big Sky for the Fighting Hawks,  who will join the Summit League in 2018-19. 
• UND owns a 52-42 record in its first five-plus seasons of league play, including its best showing of 14-4 during its title run last season. 

UND wraps up the two-game Big Sky homestand against Weber State on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Wildcats won the first eight meetings between the programs, but UND has won four of the last five, including a 93-89 victory in last year’s Big Sky Tournament title game.

UND’s 34-point win over Idaho State in the 2015 Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals was the largest margin of victory in the 44-year history of the event. Six Fighting Hawks reache double figures in the 83-49 victory in a game UND led 46-17 at halftime.

The Fighting Hawks went 11-2 at The Betty last season and own a 122-58 record in the building that opened prior to the 2004-05 season. UND won its eighth-consecutive home opener earlier this season, but the Fighting Hawks are just 1-4 since the 79-48 victory over Northland College on Nov. 21. The Fighting Hawks were 8-1 in Big Sky play on their home court a year ago, but dropped their first two league contests at home in late December.

The North Dakota men’s basketball program holds a 1566-1046 (.602) all-time record since Dr. George Sweetland led the first team onto the court in 1904-05. North Dakota is 946-284 (.770) all-time when it comes to defending its home court. 

If UND could play its first 20 minutes like their last 20 minutes, the 0-4 start to Big Sky play might look a little different. The Fighting Hawks’ four league foes have outscored them 172-106 (43.0-26.5 ppg) in the first half, but that margin is much slimmer in the second half. Opponent have only managed 167-162 advantage after the break and UND is averaging 14.0 more points during that stanza.

True freshman Tray Buchanan has emerged as UND’s best deep-ball threat since Big Sky commenced. Buchanan is 12-for-31 in league action (38.7 percent) and has accounted for 40 percent of the team’s trifectas in four Big Sky games. His success from beyond the arc has also made him the top Fighting Hawk scorer in league action at 13.3 ppg. In 11 non-conference games, Buchanan went just 6-for-25 from deep (24 percent) and averaged 4.3 ppg.

Buchanan led UND in scoring in both contests last week in the Treasure State, scoring a career-high 16 against Montana (Jan. 4), then surpassing that mark with 19 against Montana State (Jan. 6) in his first career start. 

Iowa grad transfer Dale Jones missed the Idaho contest (Dec. 29) after starting all 11 non-conference games, but returned to the starting lineup in an emphatic way vs. Eastern Washington (Dec. 31). Jones scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to register the first double-double of his career. The 6-foot-8 forward has proven his worth early on this season by averaging 10.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg (third in the Big Sky). After three seasons at the junior-college level, Injuries limited him to just 11 games for the Hawkeyes from 2015-17. By missing a majority of those two seasons, he was granted a sixth year of elibility by the NCAA. 

Sophomore Marlon Stewart scored just 26 points  (8.7 ppg) in his first three career games for UND, but is averaging a team-best 14.7 ppg in the 12 games since then. That stretch includes a career-hig 24 points against Utah Valley (Nov. 25) and team-high 23 against NDSU (Dec. 9). That was his third 20-plus point game of the season for Stewart. He had a career-high nine helpers in UND’s outing against Presentation (Nov. 28). Stewart went for 15 points and went 6-for-6 from the foul line vs. the 12th-ranked Zags (Dec. 16) and had 15 of UND’s 18 first-half points against Idaho (Dec. 29) in his Big Sky debut. He finished with 17 that contest and is averaging 12.5 ppg in league action. He came off the bench for the first time this season against Montana State (Jan. 6) and finished with 10 points.

• Head coach Bill Evans and his Bengals arrive in Grand Forks playing their best basketball of the season. ISU has won eight of nine overall with the only loss during that stretch coming at BYU (85-71).
• The Bengals are off to a 3-0 start in Big Sky play for the first time since 2006-07 thanks to a rare road win at Weber State on Dec. 30 and a home sweep of Southern Utah (93-78; Jan. 4) and Northern Ariozona (64-60; Jan. 6) last week.
• Sophomore Jared Stutzman is the team’s top scorer at 14.6 ppg and is averaging 19.3 ppg in three Big Sky games. The Utah Valley transfer is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range on the season (25-for-50).
• Junior Brandon Boyd is one of the top scoring reserves in the Big Sky, averaging 11.6 ppg and he has upped that to 15.3 ppg in league play. He scored 24 off the bench in the win over SUU. 
• Senior Geno Luzcando is a three-year starter and the Chilean is averaging 9.9 ppg and is averaging a team-best 3.3 apg. 

North Dakota (8.1/g) and Idaho State (7.4/g) rank second and fourth among Big Sky teams in terms of steals per game and four of the top eight individuals in that category will also be on display Thursday when the two teams meet on the hardwood. ISU’s Geno Luzcando ranks first in the Big Sky and sixth nationally at 2.9 spg, while teammate Brandon Boyd is tied for seventh along with UND’s Marlon Stewart at 1.6 spg. UND’s Geno (Crandall) is third in the Big Sky in steals at 2.0/g (t-48th nationally).

-- UND --

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