GREELEY, Colo. – Heading into the stretch run of the Big Sky Conference season, the Northern Arizona men's basketball is among the qualifiers for the Big Sky Conference Tournament. But the six remaining games will play a big role in the final standings and the postseason hopes of the team.
"Northern Colorado is one game behind us and North Dakota is one game ahead of us so it is a big weekend in the conference," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. "Every game and every week is big at this point of the season. We are excited to get on the road and play well."
The Lumberjacks are currently seventh in the team standings, a spot that would qualify for the postseason. But NAU (6-8) is just one game ahead of Northern Colorado (5-9), setting the stage for a key game against the Bears Thursday in Greeley. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game can be heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker.
"Northern Colorado is a talented and young team," said Murphy. "They are coming off a great win at Montana State where they played really well. They traditionally play better at home than on the road anyway. It is going to be a test and a challenge."
The Lumberjacks posted a 67-65 victory over the Bears in Flagstaff on Jan. 24 and a sweep of UNC would assist the postseason chances.
"In our game in Flagstaff against UNC, I thought we did a good job defensively for the most part," said Murphy. "We are going to be tested on Thursday against a talented offensive group especially with their shooting."
NAU travels to North Dakota on Saturday and also plays road games at Montana State and Montana over the final regular season weekend. NAU plays their final home games on Feb. 28 against Idaho State and March 2 versus Weber State.
NAU won the first meeting between the teams this season on a Michael Dunn buzzer beater. Prior to that, the Bears had posted four straight wins over the Lumberjacks and own a 9-8 overall mark in the series. Former NAU player and assistant Will Hensley is a member of the Bear staff.
Senior Gabe Rogers has been the hottest player for the Lumberjacks over the last few weeks. He has made three or more three-pointers in six of the last seven games, going 27-for-54 (50.0%) overall. He has averaged 22.0 points per game in the last seven contests, scoring in double figures in nine straight games.