By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
It's not the Pythagorean theorem or the quadratic equation, it's much simpler math than that.
Call it the "basketball team on the road" formula. It's pretty simple: teams on the road in basketball must be 10 points better than their opponents.
At least that's what Montana State University-Northern men's basketball coach calculates with his team opening the University of Lethbridge National Invitational tournament today with a game against the host Pronghorns.
"I kind of follow that old rule of being 10 points better on the road," Huse said. "There's just so many factors that go into getting a win on the road."
Indeed, there's the travel time, which leads to leg weariness; the new environment, which can be tough to get adjusted to; and the advantage of the home team, playing and practicing in the gym.
Huse readily admits there is nothing he can do to stop those factors from coming into play; rather he can combat them with a constant that should hold true at home or on the road - defense.
"I am looking for us to make a statement on defense," he said. "I want us to play tough, hard-nosed, aggressive defense. If we can do that, we will always have a good chance at coming out ahead. If we don't, it could be long nights for us."
While the surroundings and gym may be unfamiliar, Northern's first opponent won't be unfamiliar.
The Lights picked up a 101-84 win over Lethbridge to open their non-conference season on Oct. 18.
But don't let the score fool you, this game should be much tougher. The Pronghorns played that game, basically without their two best players.
Forward Tom Hudel sprained his ankle the night before playing against Carroll College and point guard Ryan Reed got an early exit from the game after picking up a pair of technical fouls. Lethbridge head coach Mike Connolly was also assessed two technical fouls and subsequently ejected.
The brief fiasco led to a 12-0 Northern run which gave them a lead they never relinquished.
"Lethbridge is going to be tough," Huse said. "They played us pretty close without their two best players. We know they're capable of playing us competitively."
Huse has never been concerned too much about his opponents personnel and scouting reports at this point in the season. Rather, he worries about his team and their execution - the things he can control.
"We'll scout the other teams we'll play up there," he said. "But we aren't that big into scouting reports. We're focusing on what we need to do to be successful."
Besides defense, Huse is looking for the same enthusiastic and unselfish play he's seen in the early home games.
"When you're on the road, your teammates are usually your only fans, so we need everyone to be supportive and be into the game," he said.
The Lights need to be into the game because at some point most of them will play in the game. With three games in three days, every one of the players suited up will have to play and contribute at some point during the weekend.
"Nobody is going to play 38 minutes a game, all three nights," Huse said. "I hope everyone is ready to play because of that."
On Friday, Northern will face Concordia University out of Montreal. The Stingers return several players off of last year's squad that narrowly missed making the Canadian National tournament.
On Saturday, the Lights will face perennial Canadian power Simon Fraser. The Clan are led by guard Pasha Bains, who was named to Canada's world university games team last year and led the Canadian Interuniversity Association in scoring at 23 points per game.
"This is great competition for us," Huse said. "We're going to find out a lot about ourselves. It's a great test for us to see what we're made of, especially what kind of mental toughness we have."