What to Know
The Fighting Hawks will come to Carver Hawkeye Arena tonight sporting a 5-4 overall record. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 1968 and the seventh all time, which the Hawkeyes lead 6-0. They are coached by former Iowa assistant, Brian Jones, who was on the staff for most of the Steve Alford era in Iowa City (1999-06). Jones has been the head coach at North Dakota since the 06-07 season.
Former Iowa guard, Jeff Horner, is one of Jones' assistant's after coaching at West Des Moines Valley from 2008-2014. Horner played guard for Iowa from 2002-06 and averaged double figures in three of his four seasons in Iowa City. Horner also averaged more than four assists per game in all four seasons. He was the point guard on back-to-back 20 win teams from 04-06.
North Dakota is riding a two game losing streak currently after dropping games to North Dakota State and Northern Iowa. They have slim losses early on in the season to North Florida (1) and Wright State (4). Their latest loss to North Dakota State came by 17. The Fighting Hawks had the Northern Iowa Panthers on the brink, but Jeremy Morgan dropped 38 second half points to lead the Panthers to a victory.
Coach Jones has a good mix of veterans and young players and will rely heavily on Quinton Hooker who will dominate most of the shots. Hooker has had games of 30, 29, and 22 so far this season. In his junior campaign he averaged 20 points per game and he's just a shade underneath that early on this season averaging 17 points per game.
Who to Know
I made mention to Hooker already, who was named Big Sky Preseason MVP by the league back in October. After that Geno Crandall, a sophomore guard, averages right around 14 points per game. Crandall had 24 points in the first go around against North Dakota State and has had two separate games of 17 points, so he can fill it up as well.
Sophomore forward Conner Avants, senior guard Corey Baldwin, and junior forward Drick Bernstine round out the starting lineup that is extremely balanced. All three of those players average between 8 and 10 points with Bernstine leading the way averaging 7 rebounds per game.
Off the bench they'll look towards Cortez Seales, who was a standout at North Scott High School in Eldridge, IA about an hour down the way from Iowa City. Seales averaged 17 points per game in his senior season as a Lancer. He is now in his sophomore season at North Dakota and is a key piece off the bench.
He averages 7 points and 3 rebounds per game for North Dakota and will play decent minutes. He had 15 points in 29 minutes last Friday against North Dakota State. Another name to keep an eye out for is junior center Carson Shanks. Shanks stands 7' tall and averages 8 points and 3 rebounds per game for the Fighting Hawks. He shoots 58% from the field for Jones' team.
And last but not least, freshman Billy Brown, who averages 4 points and 2 rebounds comes from Spirit Lake, IA where he averaged 22 points per game as a high school senior. And yes, he and Ryan Kriener played on the same team together. Seems fair to me!
One final fun fact, UND's Quinton Hooker is the older brother of Amani Hooker, who plays safety for the Hawkeye football team.
Stats to Know
The Fighting Hawks aren't lighting it up from deep this season. They've made just 60 three point field goals (about 6.5 per game) as a team and that is good for 300th out of the 351 division one teams. However, they do shoot it at a decent percentage at 35%.
They are going to struggle a bit at the free throw line considering they shoot just 64%. However, Hooker and Crandall both shoot it at over 76% with Hooker coming in at 82%. Baldwin and Bernstine both struggle shooting down in the 40's.
They take good shots and as a result they shoot 49% from the field as a team. That is top 40 in the country.
They do average around 80 points per game, so they could have the offensive fire power to keep pace with the Hawkeyes for a while. It's going to depend on what they get from the guys that surround Hooker, because he is such a talented player that he'll likely reach his scoring average tonight against the Hawkeyes.
Sophomore forward Conner Avants is shooting an impressive 63% from the field so far this season for Jones' team.
These teams will tip it off tonight at 8pm inside Carver Hawkeye Arena.
FINAL PREDICTION: IOWA 86 NORTH DAKOTA 70