OGDEN — Randy Rahe looks at the schedule and sees nine more games left to play after tonight's contest.

Weber State fans and players, however, look at the schedule and see sole possession of first place in the Big Sky waiting to be grabbed.

"It's a heck of a matchup," Rahe said of tonight's game against Northern Arizona. "They're the top dog, and we're going to have to play well to compete with them."

Playing well is exactly what the Wildcats have been doing. After a rough preseason, WSU is 5-1 in conference play and riding a wave of momentum. The Lumberjacks, likewise, enter the game with a 5-1 Big Sky mark, and the winner of the game will be the favorite to host the conference tournament in March.

Knowing that, WSU players expressed excitement about the game once they dispatched Sacramento State on Wednesday, setting the stage for tonight's drama.

"This is a really big game for us," sophomore center Steve Panos said, perhaps overplaying it but still trying to place importance on the game. "It's probably going to make or break our season right now for us."

That's exactly what Rahe wants to avoid, though. With nine games left on the schedule, including a rematch with the Lumberjacks on Feb. 28 in Flagstaff, there is more than enough basketball to be played.

The Wildcats have found themselves shooting the ball well during their win streak and enjoyed a 51.8 percent effort on Wednesday. It's that type of shooting — WSU has shot 50 percent or better in four of its last five games — that will be needed.

Northern Arizona has, as usual, one of the top-shooting teams in the Big Sky and brings a team that averages 47.9 percent shooting while also limiting its opponents to just 41.8 percent — also best in the Big Sky.

Senior forward Kyle Landry averages 16.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Guard Josh Wilson adds 12 points and 5.7 assists for the Lumberjacks.

Big Sky battle

Weber State (10-8, 5-1) vs. Northern Arizona (13-6, 5-1)

Dee Events Center

Tonight, 7 p.m.

TV: none Radio: 1430 AM

GAME NOTES: The early lead in the Big Sky is on the line as two 5-1 teams face off ... NAU has the top shooting offense (47.9 percent) and top defense (41.8 percent) in the conference ... Weber State swept all three meetings with NAU last year ... WSU follows this game up with a home-and-home set against Idaho State next week.

E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com