By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Head coach Shawn Huse may measure the success of his Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team in baby steps.
But his Lights took an adult leap on Thursday night with an 81-73 win over the Dickinson State Bluehawks at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
Transfer point guard Antonio Jordan hit a difficult 16-foot jumpshot with time dwindling on the shot clock, and sank three of four free throws in final 25 seconds to secure Northern's third win of the season.
"It's starting to come around," Huse said. "We're taking baby steps right now, but this is a very good win for us."
In a game that had Frontier Conference-type intensity, and Frontier Conference-type talent, Northern and Dickinson exchanged leads early and often, with the Lights outlasting the Bluehawks down the stretch.
"Dickinson has a team and the talent similar to our conference," Huse said. "It really was like a conference game in terms of intensity and physicalness of play."
DSU, which was playing in its first game of the season, played like it was its fifth or sixth game. The Bluehawks, who are ranked 16th in NAIA Division II, came out aggressive on both ends of the floor, forcing Northern into some turnovers that led to easy baskets.
"They came out a lot more aggressive than any of the other teams we've played this season," said junior post player Marcus Wilson. "It's tough to prepare for it, you just have to react to it."
Said Huse: "It took us a half to get used to their pressure. You just cannot prepare for it. You can talk and talk about it. We knew it was coming. But until they experience it, you just don't know."
Northern's experience in the first half was not good. The Lights turned the ball over 10 times. They also surrendered six offensive rebounds.
"We got careless with the ball and they beat us up on the boards," Huse said. "But we were still able to keep things close in the first half."
Things stayed closed thanks to the Lights' three-point shooting. Northern sank six three-pointers in the first half -two each from Landen Grant and Jordan Matthews
The hot shooting even pushed Northern ahead late in the first half, going up seven on a Pathe Yatera putback. DSU rallied behind Ryan Rostvold's four-point play and two free throws to retake the lead at 34-33, and eventually a 36-35 halftime lead.
For as uncomfortable as Northern looked against DSU's pressure, Huse was more than happy to be only down by one.
"We did what we had to do to keep things close," he said. "We made some mistakes, but we were able to do enough to offset them."
The Lights would be much more comfortable in the second half, having already seen 20 minutes of pressure.
Northern retook the lead immediately in the second half on a pair of baskets by Wilson, but DSU would go back up behind another Rostvold four-point play and a three-pointer. Rostvold scored 11 of his game-high 30 points in the stretch to put Dickinson up 47-41.
It would take the better part of eight minutes for Northern retake the lead, using a mixture of outside jump shots and scores inside. Unlike the first half, the Lights had little trouble getting good looks.
"We started to get settled in against them," Huse said. "Once we started getting some posts touches everything kind of opened up. We started attacking and seeing some openings."
Northern steadily cut into the lead, getting baskets from Matthews, Wilson, TimHutchins and Cory Brothers. A tough move inside by Reid Stovall put the Lights up 52-51. Matthews followed it up with a three-pointer to extended the lead to 55-53. From there both teams traded two and three-point leads.
The Lights stretched the lead to four points on a five consecutive points from Rodrick Carter. But another Rostvold three-pointer gave the lead back to DSU at 71-69 with 4:38 remaining.
"We tried all game to find the best defensive matchup with him, while still maintaining some chemistry on offense," Huse said.
He found it in the true freshman and former HHS standout, Brothers, who held Rostvold scoreless the remainder of the game.
With DSU's main offensive weapon neutralized, Northern went back to work. Jordan hit a three-pointer to give the lead back to the Lights. Matthews and Brothers each sank 1-2 free throws, while Wilson scored inside on a slick pass from Matthews, setting up Jordan's heroics.
"We got another nice team effort," Huse said. "We really do have 12 guys that can play in high pressure basketball games. I thought Rodrick, Cory, Tim and Marcus really stepped up tonight for us. It seems like every night it is somebody different stepping for us."
Wilson and Matthews led the balanced attack with 14 points each. Carter added 13 points off the bench, while Jordan finished with 12 points.
Rostvold was the only Bluehawk in double figures with 30 points.
Northern will be back in action Sunday at 4 p.m. when it hosts Minot State University.
"We can't just be satisfied with this win," Huse said. "We need to carry it over against Minot."
DICKINSON STATE UNIVERSITY (73)
Derek Miller 2-6 0-0 4; Scott Klaudt 1-7 2-2 4; Chad Glasser 2-8 2-2 6; Willis Woods 2-2 2-2 7; Ryan Rostvold 9-16 6-6 30; Fred Rurangirwa 3-5 0-0 7; Chris Ortiz 2-3 0-0 4; Parfait Nayigihugu 1-1 0-2 2; Alex Perkins 1-1 0-0 2; Terrance Anderson 1-1 0-0 2; Aaron Brown 1-2 2-2 5; Jake Schmitz 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 24-54 14-16 73.
Reid Stovall 3-7 2-2 8; Marcus Wilson 6-8 2-3 14; Jordan Matthews 4-6 2-6 14; Landen Grant 2-7 0-0 6; Antonio Jordan 3-6 5-6 12; Rodrick Carter 5-9 0-0 13; Leo Bullchild 0-2 0-0 0; Cory Brothers 3-6 1-2 7; Cody Gillespie 1-2 0-0 3; Tim Hutchins 1-4 0-0 2; Pathe Yatera 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 29-59 12-19 81.
Halftime score: DSU 36, MSU-N 35. Three-point goals: DSU 9-22 (Miller 0-1, Klaudt 0-3, Glasser 0-3, Woods 1-1, Rostvold 6-11, Rurangirwa 1-2, Brown 1-1), MSU-N 11-28 (Matthews 4-6, Grant 2-6, Jordan 1-4, Carter 3-5, Bullchild 0-1, Brothers 0-2, Gillespie 1-2, Hutchins 0-1, Yatera 0-1). Rebounds: DSU 33 (Miller 8, Schmitz 7)l MSU-N (Wilson 6). Assists: DSU 13 (Miller 3, Glasser 3); MSU-N 16 (Matthews 5). Turnovers: DSU 22, MSU-N 16. Total fouls: DSU 20, MSU-N 14. Fouled out : none; Technicals: Klaudt.