By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
One thing is for certain for the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team: The Lights know plenty about their opponents.
After dropping a pair of heartbreaking, 1-point home losses to Dickinson State and Minot State last weekend, the Lights will face the same two squads on their respective home floors this weekend.
"The sun does come up, despite the tough losses," said head coach Shawn Huse. "Losses like this is where you find about yourselves."
What the Lights found out is that they were more than capable of winning both of those games. Northern led by as many as 10 points in each, but had trouble finishing both teams off.
Northern squandered a 10-point regulation lead and ended up losing in overtime to DSU, but that paled in comparison to the loss to Minot, where Northern blew a 9-point lead in just over 20 seconds.
Both losses cut deeply, but Huse is confident that his team will bounce back, especially since it had plenty of opportunities to win both games.
"We definitely feel confident about these two games," Huse said. "We proved that we can do more than just play with these teams."
Northern will face a Minot State squad that is capable of scoring inside and out. The Beavers are led by the duo of Jeff Brandt and Kent Bloms. Brandt had a team-high 21 points in the win last week while Bloms had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Along with Bloms, Khalid Loda is a solid rebounder and brings a distinct size advantage for Minot, while forward Lloyd Flanders provides added scoring.
"We know that they are probably not going to do anything too different," Huse said. "And they know we aren't going to change much, so it comes down to execution."
For 38 minutes in the previous game, Northern executed with precision. The Lights played an up-tempo full-court pace to negate Minot's distinct height advantage. It seemed to work, as they shot 57 percent from the field and over 70 percent from 3-point range.
"We know what it takes to be effective against Minot," Huse said. "We have to control the tempo of the game and play it at the pace we want. Speed offsets size and we are going to utilize our speed."
That up-tempo pace will be welcomed on Sunday in Dickinson when the Lights face the Bluehawks. DSU, under new head coach Scott Berry, is one of the few teams in the area that can match Northern's quickness on the perimeter and in transition.
Dickinson jumped out to a 22-7 lead in the first meeting before Northern was able to crawl back into the game and eventually regain the lead at halftime. In the second half, the Lights squandered a 10-point lead with three minutes remaining and were forced to go to overtime. In the overtime, the combination of bad shot selection and a miscommunication on defense allowed DSU's Beau Pilon to knock down a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining.
"We can't let them jump out to a big lead like that," Huse said. "It takes a lot of energy to come back from that big of a deficit. We know they come out strong early and we need to be prepared."
Dickinson is led by smooth-shooting guard Kasey Ulin. A night after scoring 25 points on Northern, Ulin dropped 44 on the University of Great Falls. Along with guard Scott Klaudt, forwards Cameron Rowland, Konrad Tota and Jake Schmitz, the Bluehawks possess athleticism comparable to Northern.
The combinations should make for a very interesting game.
"I think we were surprised at first by how quick they were on the perimeter," Huse said. "It took us a little while to make that adjustment, but we shouldn't have to this time."
Making adjustments may actually favor Northern. Last week's games were the first games of the season for Minot and Dickinson, so Huse wasn't able to do much scouting. Conversely, Northern had played five games already and both teams knew a little more about the Lights.
"We played both teams tough without knowing anything about them," Huse said. "We're not using that as an excuse for losing, but we'll be a little more prepared for this weekend."