By Ryan Divish
The true test of a team's character is how it reacts in the face of adversity. After losing three consecutive games for the first time this season, the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team is facing a boatload of adversity.
Head coach Shawn Huse believes character isn't something that is built; rather, it is something that is displayed. And he hopes his team will display that character when it hosts the University of Great Falls Argos Saturday night at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
"We are really going to find out about the character of this team," Huse said. "When you come out of something like that, you have to display good character. I expect that we will."
The three straight losses have dulled some of the shine from Northern's 4-0 start in the Frontier Conference season. However, those three losses came against the top three teams in the conference and the Lights had opportunities to win all three.
With only one game this week, the extra time has allowed Huse and his players to focus not only on Great Falls but also on themselves. The period of self-evaluation revealed plenty of little things that needed to be improved, but no major changes were glaringly apparent.
"Had we lost three games to teams that we feel we should beat, then maybe it would be time to panic," Huse said. "But when you're losing close games to good team like this, it would be premature to panic and make a lot of major adjustments."
If you look at records or previous games, UGF is a team Northern should beat. UGF is 1-6 in the conference, with one of those losses coming at the hands of the Lights, 93-61, on Jan. 11 in Great Falls. In that game, Northern played a stifling defense that forced the Argos into an icy 30 percent shooting from the field, including 18 percent from three-point range.
In that game and all season, the Argos relied heavily on the guard tandem of Danny Ball and Bo Scott. Ball is seventh in the conference in scoring at 17 points per game while Scott averages just under 12 points a game. In the first game, the duo combined for 35 of UGF's 63 points.
Still, Northern made both Ball and Scott work for every point they scored, while still holding the remaining Argos under double figures. Northern will need that defensive effort again.
"We're scoring plenty of points," Huse said. "But we are also giving up more points than we want. We need to pick things up defensively."
Northern will counter UGF with the trio of Larry and Lamar Morinia and Charlie Ereaux. Larry Morinia is still leading the Frontier in scoring at 20.2 points per game while Ereaux and Lamar Morinia are both scoring about 14 points per game. Larry Morinia and Ereaux were particularly effective against UGF, scoring 27 and 21 points, respectively.
Despite the resounding win earlier in the season, Huse won't allow any thoughts of looking past the Argos to even enter his players' minds.
"They are a little wounded right now," Huse said. "And wounded teams can be dangerous because they tend to play without anything to lose. I'm sure they will give us everything they have and a little more."
After losing the past three games, the Lights are also a little wounded. However, Huse is confident that his team will respond and show the character he is looking for.
"We're going to keep doing what we do best," Huse said. "We know we should be a competitive team every night. We've proven that. I fully expect the guys to come out with a real sense of urgency and a lot of fire."