FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With four games left in the regular season, the Northern Arizona men's basketball team faces a key game against Idaho State Thursday night at home in the Walkup Skydome. Tipoff is at 6:35 p.m. for the first of two games at home this week.
"We try not to think about it too much," said senior guard Michael Dunn about the standings. "We know it is a tight race and each game is an important game for everybody except the top two teams in the conference."
NAU (10-17, 7-9 BSC) is tied for fifth overall at 7-9 with Sacramento State and Montana State entering the week. NAU defeated Montana State to open Big Sky play and swept Sacramento State. Montana (15-1) and Weber State (14-2) have already clinched postseason berths.
"Sitting at 7-9 with four games left realistically I think two wins gets you in the conference tournament with nine overall," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. NAU closes the regular season by hosting Weber State on Saturday and travels to Montana State and Montana next week.
The Bengals (5-21, 4-12 BSC) come to Flagstaff on a two-game losing streak and have lost nine of their last 10 games entering the contest against the Lumberjacks.
"We are taking it one game at a time," said Murphy. "We know Thursday's game is a very important game. The difference in this conference between third and 11th is minimal. It is a bounce here or a bounce there. We know it is going to be a competitive game. They are well coached and a tough team coming in."
Three players score in double figures for Idaho State, including Melvin Morgan at 12.0 points per game. Chris Hansen averages 11.5 points and Tomas Sanchez scores 10.4 points per game.
NAU won the first meeting between the schools with a 60-55 victory in Pocatello on Jan. 19.
Idaho State has struggled on the road this season, posting a 1-15 record away from Pocatello. Their lone road win came at Southern Utah on Jan. 12. Idaho State has lost a pair of overtime games this season, including a 61-59 heartbreaker at Montana State and an 81-79 loss at home to Southern Utah.
Idaho State leads the all-time series with the Lumberjacks 50-41 but NAU holds a 27-16 advantage in Flagstaff. Outside of a 16-point loss in Pocatello last season, the two schools have played some close games lately. Five of the last six meetings have been decided by six points or less and a combined 17 points. Three of the games have gone into overtime. NAU had lost the last five meetings in Pocatello before posting a 60-55 win on Jan. 19.
The Bengals are the lowest scoring team in the conference at 56.0 points per game but trail only Weber State in scoring defense, allowing just 63.5 points per game. They are shooting just 40.6 percent from the field for the season.
Voice of the Lumberjacks Mitch Strohman will call the action on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and online on the Big Talker website and The Big Talker mobile app. The game can be seen online on Big Sky TV and will be broadcast on NAU-TV locally and online and shown Fox Sports Arizona on a tape-delayed basis.
The first 2,000 fans will receive FREE pizza coupons courtesy of Papa John's. Students who attend Cromer, Knoles, Leupp and Sinagua schools receive a $5 ticket discount for them and their guests. To purchase single game tickets for this game, click here or call 928-523-5661.