BOZEMAN — Montana State reaches the mid-point of the Big Sky Conference season this weekend, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday against Northern Arizona.
The Lumberjacks' lineup and rotation will be slightly changed from the squad the Bobcats edged 76-73 in overtime in Flagstaff less than a month ago. But one characteristic has remained constant for NAU.
"They're playing very hard," MSU coach Brian Fish said in a press release. "Sometimes when a team's struggling and having a tough year it's hard keeping kids playing hard and buying in. But when you watch (NAU) on tape you don't see any letdown. They're in every single game they play and they're playing really hard."
Guard JoJo Anderson leads the Lumberjacks (3-17 overall, 0-7 in Big Sky play). The 6-foot-3 sophomore scores a team-high 12.4 points a game off the bench, and his 130 free throw attempts lead the Big Sky.
Torry Johnson (9.6 ppg) and Chris Bowling (9.7 ppg) each score nearly 10 points a game, and Brooks DeBisschop paces the team with seven boards a contest.
After shooting 35 3-pointers in their first two league contests of the season, the Lumberjacks average over 20 per game in the most recent four.
"They've been shooting more 3-pointers," Fish said, "And they made 14 against Idaho (last Saturday)."
Six different Lumberjacks pose a threat from the arc.
The Bobcats (11-9, 4-3) counter with an attack that continues to diversify, but which also seeks consistency. Tyler Hall (18.8 ppg) and Harald Frey (14.5 ppg) lead in scoring, and Keljin Blevins chips in 10 points a game. Joe Mvuezolo Jr. averages eight points a game, but struggles with efficiency. Konner Frey scores 5.7 points a game and shootings 55.6%, but continues to struggle with foul trouble.
This weekend's games mark the first rematches of the Big Sky season, which alters preparation.
"The biggest thing is they get to see film of themselves," Fish said. "We play Northern Arizona, so we show them film of when we played them so there's a little more attention to detail because they see themselves, what works and what doesn't work. The scouting report is a little quicker. Northern Arizona's doing a lot of the same things, (but) they've adjusted their lineup a little."
Fish said matching up with Northern Arizona's shooters coming out of the fast break is high on Thursday's to-do list. "We didn't do a very good job of defense in transition there, so we need to do a better job there. We need to get back."
MSU completes weekend action against Southern Utah on Saturday. Fans with a ticket from last week's Cat-Griz game receive a game ticket to either of this weekend's contests for $5.