GREELEY, Colo. – Northern Arizona Head Coach Mike Adras went to the wrong baggage claim Sunday night in Denver. But travel and accommodations aside, a lot will be similar when the Lumberjacks face a familiar foe Tuesday in the Banner Health Big Sky Tournament semifinals against top-seed Northern Colorado.
"Just when you think you were just here and it was all familiar, we are in a different hotel and it was a different experience getting over here," said Adras. "But I think it helps. They are fresh in our minds and we just played here. We played a pretty good game and had a five-point lead with three minutes to go and we didn't finish the deal. That is our goal this time to finish the game."
NAU lost to the Bears 10 days ago at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion by a single point after winning the matchup in Flagstaff last month. Coming off one of the most exciting games in school history, the Lumberjacks hope to carry over the momentum from the 16-point comeback win over Montana State on Saturday.
"I hope so," said Adras. "There were a couple guys that played with jitters. Thank goodness our seniors showed up especially down the stretch. I think it works in our favor having already played a tournament game. They have not and if that helps us it would be great."
Northern Colorado has not played since March 2, posting a 30-point victory over Sacramento State in their final regular season home. The Bears are 19-10 on the season and have won five straight games overall and all 12 games at home this season. UNC was perfect at home with an average margin of victory of 20.7 points per game with the Lumberjacks the only team to lose by single digits, a 72-71 loss on Feb.26.
UNC is hosting the Big Sky Tournament for the first time and are 0-2 all-time in Big Sky Tournament play.
"The fact that Northern Colorado has never won a Big Sky Tournament game I hope that is something that ways on their minds and we can use that to our advantage," said Adras. "You are looking for any little advantage."
UNC and NAU are the top two scoring teams in the conference at 72.4 and 72.2 points per game, respectively. The Lumberjacks lead the league in field-goal percentage and are still the top three-point shooting team in the nation for the seventh consecutive week. The Bears lead the league in rebounding.
"The teams are fairly close," said Adras. "We have proven that in two league games. Obviously someone needs to step up and play well. The team that is able to gain a foothold is the team that wins the ball game."
The game also features the top two scoring student-athletes in the tournament in NAU's Cameron Jones at 20.0 points per game and UNC's Devon Beitzel. They also are among the 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and were both named to the All-Big Sky first-team last week.
Both semifinal games will be televised by Altitude (Direct TV 681, Dish Network 410) and will be available on Big Sky TV at www.bigskytv.org. No. 3 seed Weber State will play No. 2 Montana after advancing with a 79-70 victory over Eastern Washington in Saturday.
Lumberjack fans can listen to Mitch Strohman's call courtside on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and online at www.bigtalkerradio.com. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. with the winner advancing to the championship game on Wednesday on ESPN2.
There will be a viewing party in Flagstaff at Porky's Pub for the Big Sky Tournament semifinal game. The party starts at 7:30 p.m. Porky's Pub is newly remodeled with 10 50-inch flat screen televisions. Porky's Pub is located at 2285 E. Butler Ave. and is connected to the Country Host Restaurant.
Banner Health Big Sky Championship
Saturday, March 5
Quarterfinals (at No. 3 and No. 4 seeds)
No. 3 Weber State 79, No. 6 Eastern Washington 70 (At Ogden, Utah)
No. 4 Northern Arizona 65, No. 5 Montana State 62 (At Flagstaff, Ariz.
At Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion
Tuesday, March 8 (at regular-season champ)
Semifinals (Televised by Altitude)
No. 2 Montana (20-9) vs. No. 3 Weber State (18-11), 5:30 p.m.
No. 1 Northern Colorado (19-10) vs. No. 4 Northern Arizona (19-11), 8 p.m.
Wednesday, March 9
Championship, 7 p.m. MST (ESPN2)
All times Mountain/Subject to Change