Wednesday’s matchup between the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Salt Lake City Stars marks the third out of four meetings between the two teams this season. The Skyforce have been trending in the right direction recently, having won four of five games in the new year with quality wins against South Bay, Agua Caliente, and Raptors 905.
Salt Lake City, on the other hand, sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. With a 4-24 record, the Stars have struggled to put together any type of momentum so far this season and are looking to right the ship in Sioux Falls. Though Skyforce topped the Stars twice this season, each matchup has been drastically different from the last, and that continues to be the case for Wednesday’s meeting.
Let’s take a look at some key things as the Skyforce look to continue winning at home.
Salt Lake City Stars forward Taylor Braun, a graduate of North Dakota State University, is no stranger to Sioux Falls. Having both participated and won the Summit League tournament at the Denny Sanford Premiere Center, Braun has now continued his play a few miles north, at the Sanford Pentagon. Braun has scored 13 points and collected three rebounds in each of the first two meetings with the Skyforce, starting in each game. He sits at 12.6 points per game on the season, having started in 24-of-25 games for the Stars, and will look to build on that average Wednesday.
The Stars also feature a pair of Iowa State graduates in Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long. The two were recently reunited as the Utah Jazz signed Niang to a two-way contract last week. Even before their professional career began, Niang and Mitrou-Long gained experience at the Sanford Pentagon as Iowa State took on the Colorado Buffaloes on November 13, 2015. Niang scored a team-high 17 points to go with eight rebounds for the Cyclones that day, while Mitrou-Long pitched in 13 points in the 68-62 victory. Having previously played for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang is undefeated against the Skyforce this season.
Stars forward Erik McCree, who is leading the team in scoring since being acquired on December 20 at a 21.0 points per game clip. The former Skyforce player is making the most of his expanded opportunity, now under a two-way contract with the Utah Jazz. McCree serves as a unique situation, because although he plays most frequently for Salt Lake City, he marks the first and only NBA Call-Up of the season for the Skyforce.
The Stars roster has gained quite a bit of fire power since the last time these two teams faced, and the Skyforce roster has been in flux as the Miami HEAT continue to make the most of their two-way contracts (as it should be). With both Derrick Walton Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. currently with the NBA club, and Jimmie Taylor sidelined for the foreseeable future with a hand injury, the Skyforce will again turn to mainstays Larry Drew II, Ike Nwamu, Tony Mitchell and Alonzo Gee to lead them past the Stars.
During their last meeting in Salt Lake City, Alonzo Gee posted a 29-point, 10-rebound double-double, marking his most productive game of the season so far and his first double-double performance since his 2010 NBA G League rookie campaign.