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UND looking to stay the course in Big Sky conference

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota men's basketball coach Brian Jones has to keep reminding himself one thing: It's still early in the season and a lot of meaningful games remain.

That's one way to look at UND's 1-6 start, one that has been plagued by injuries and a drawn-out eligibility question involving the NCAA.

"We haven't got the wins to show for it but we're a good basketball team," Jones said. "We just need to be able to finish some games."

UND plays Presentation College of Aberdeen, S.D., tonight at The Betty, a game North Dakota should win easily even with the injury situation.

Against North Dakota State on Sunday, center Brandon Brekke suffered a concussion after taking an inadvertent elbow from Bison center Marshall Bjorklund two minutes into the game.

"It's day to day with Brandon," Jones said. "It doesn't look good (for tonight). Our hope is to have him back by Monday for Southern Utah. But he still needs to be cleared by the medical staff probably by Friday because we leave on Saturday."

Troy Huff, UND's scorer from last year, is still out after he suffered a broken jaw in the team's season opener at Kansas State. Huff also lost 14 pounds because he had his jaw wired shut.

Jones hoped Huff would be ready for Big Sky Conference play, which begins Monday at Southern Utah. But there still is no timetable for his return, even though he is now practicing on a limited basis.

And Jaron Nash, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Texas Tech, still hasn't been cleared to play by the NCAA. UND is appealing the NCAA ruling that said Nash, who moved closer to his Waterloo, Iowa, home to be closer to his ailing father, has to sit out a season.

"We still have four healthy bodies inside," Jones said. "But we've had a tendency to get in foul trouble. We've been talking about other options, like playing with a smaller lineup or maybe playing zone. But we have to do a better job of guarding the post."

After tonight's game against 4-5 Presentation, UND's focus switches to the Big Sky and the likes of Weber State and Montana -- the two teams that have had the most success in recent seasons.

Jones is in his seventh season at UND. The start to his six previous seasons hasn't been as turbulent as this one.

"It's out of our control," he said. "We've proven we can play. Obviously, with getting Troy and Brandon back, and possibly Jaron, there is a lot of room for growth. But there is room for growth for the guys who are competing now."

After Monday's game at Southern Utah, UND opens its Big Sky home season Dec. 21 against Northern Colorado.

"At our level, it's not about your start," Jones said. "It's about how you're playing during league play."