By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Montana State University-Northern men's basketball coach Shawn Huse experienced both ends of the spectrum this weekend.
Huse watched his team play its best basketball of the season in a 99-72 win over the University of Fraser Valley on Friday night in the opening game of the Cougar Classic Tournament, hosted by Mount Royal College in Calgary.
A night later, Huse's team took a step backward with a flat performance in a 93-92 overtime loss to host Mount Royal.
On Friday, Northern completely controlled a very good Fraser Valley team from start to finish. Northern outshot, outrebounded and outhustled the Cascades en route to a decisive win. The Lights followed the lead of Reid Stovall, who scrapped and fought for a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Stovall made 10 of 11 shots while picking up several key offensive rebounds.
"Reid made hustle play after hustle play," Huse said. "He was just possessed out there. And our guys really followed his lead. We played our best basketball yet on Friday night. We were making hustle plays, taking good shots and taking care of the ball."
Indeed, Northern shot a blistering 55 percent from the field, including a 10-20 performance from three-point range. Northern also dominated the boards, outrebounding Fraser Valley 37-27.
The Lights set the tempo from the opening tip, scoring 59 first-half points and leading throughout the game.
"Fraser Valley is a very good team," Huse said. "They are different from the other Canadian teams we played this year. They have a lot of three- and four-year players. They won the Canadian national championship twice in the last five years."
It wouldn't have mattered if they won five titles in five years, the way Northern played.
"The guys really bought into the idea of making hustle plays, playing hard and concentrating on little things we need to do to win," Huse said.
If there was one negative it was Northern's performance from the free-throw line. The Lights shot a paltry 21-38 from the charity stripe for an icy 55 percent.
"We made up for how poorly we shot free throws with our defense and our execution on offense," Huse said. "But we can't keep shooting free throws that poorly and expect to win games."
Besides Stovall, Northern had five other players in double figures, led by Lamar Morinia's 18 points. Larry Morinia added 15 points and eight rebounds, while Landen Grant, Zach McLean and Dustin Sawejka scored 12 points each for the Lights.
All of the positive energy dissipated a day later as Northern slogged its way through a subpar performance against the host Mount Royal Cougars.
"We came out as bad as we were good the night before," Huse said. "We were sluggish and flat, and we didn't pay attention to those little things like we did on Friday night. And, consequently, we got snake bit."
Despite the sluggish start, Northern managed to take a 40-33 lead at halftime. The Lights even led by 15 points early in the second half. However, a controversial technical foul call on Leo Bullchild and a tough three-pointer from Mount Royal sparked a comeback that left the game knotted at 85 at the end of regulation.
In the overtime, the two teams traded baskets, with Mount Royal grabbing a one-point 93-92 lead with under 20 seconds remaining. Northern drew up a penetration play for Lamar Morinia, but his drive to the basket was cut off and he was forced to settle for a very tough shot with some contact, which came up short.
"I think Lamar felt he got fouled," Huse said. "I haven't watched the tape of it, but he didn't get very deep into the key and it looked like he either bobbled the ball or was fouled on his way up for the shot."
Still, Morinia's shot didn't lose the game for Northern. It was lost in other areas, according to Huse.
"We had plenty of chances to win this game," Huse said. "But it comes down to doing those little things like boxing out every play and defending on every play."
The two little things that Huse mentioned proved to be big in the scheme of things. Northern was only outrebounded 45-39. However, Mount Royal did have 18 offensive rebounds which led to several second-chance points.
"Giving up that many offensive rebounds is unacceptable," Huse said. "We've talked all season about how important rebounding is for us to be successful. We just didn't do a good job of boxing out."
Defensively, the 93 points was the most Northern had given up in nine games.
"You have to give credit to Mount Royal," Huse said. "They shot the ball extremely well and hit some unbelievably tough three-point shots. They are a very good team that is moving up to the CIS league, the highest level in Canadian college basketball, next year. They'd make a run in the Frontier Conference if they played like that every night."
Northern still did plenty of good things in the game. The Lights had little trouble offensively, with five players in double figures, led by Larry Morinia's 18 points and eight assists. Stovall and Lamar Morinia each scored 16, while Sawejka and Grant added 13 and 10, respectively.
"As poorly as we played, we still had opportunities to win the game," Huse said. "Nobody feels worse than our guys. They'll be the first to tell you that our energy level and attention to detail wasn't there."
Huse hopes that the loss will offer a little motivation for this week's games - on Tuesday against the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Saturday's Frontier Conference opener against the University of Great Falls.
"They learned a valuable lesson," Huse said. "It's no fun for players, coaches or fans to lose. But every once in awhile, a team needs a wake-up call and we definitely got one."
The Lights will take on SAIT at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the MSU-Northern Gymnasium.
U of FRASER VALLEY (76)
Mike McLaverty 8-16 3-5 19; Brent Sedo 0-3 2-2 2; Jamie Vaughan 7-12 3-3 17; Kevin Dieleman 2-4 0-0 4; Jason Bee 1-7 0-0 2; Matt Francisco 0-1 0-0 0; Brian Smith 2-2 0-0 4; Mark Turner 4-8 0-0 9; Brad Van Dolah 4-9 2-3 11; Jeff O'Brien 3-8 2-2 8. Totals: 31-70 12-15 76.
Larry Morinia 6-12 2-2 15; Reid Stovall 10-11 0-0 20; Landen Grant 4-5 0-0 12; Trenton Harbaugh 1-4 0-2 2; Zach McLean 2-4 7-9 12; Leo Bullchild 1-4 0-0 2; Travis Moran 1-1 0-2 2; Steve Ahrens 1-2 2-2 4; Dustin Sawejka 4-7 4-6 12. Totals: 34-61 21-38 99.
Halftime: MSUN 59, FVC 38. Three-point goals: FVC 2-7 (Bee 0-1, Francisco 0-1, Turner 1-1 Van Dolah 1-3, O'Brien 0-1), MSUN 10-20 (Larry Morinia 1-4, Lamar Morinia 4-7, Grant 4-5, McLean 1-2, Bullchild 0-1, Sawejka 0-1). Rebounds: FVC 27 (McLaverty 6); MSUN 37 (Stovall 9, Larry Morinia 8) Assists: FVC 27 (Francisco 6); MSUN 29 (four tied with 4). Total fouls: FVC 26, MSUN 18. Fouled out - none; Technicals - O'Brien, Turner 2.
Larry Morinia 7-13 3-4 18; Reid Stovall 7-14 2-4 16; Lamar Morinia 6-13 2-3 16; Landen Grant 4-8 0-0 10; Zach McLean 1-3 0-0 2; Leo Bullchild 3-6 0-1 7; Travis Moran 1-2 0-2 2; Steve Ahrens 0-1 0-0 0; Dustin Sawejka 6-13 1-1 13. Totals: 39-82 8-15 92.
MOUNT ROYAL COLLEGE (93)
Josh Feist 6-17 3-6 16, Carson Powell 3-7 0-1 6; Kevin Dela Pena 3-9 1-2 7; Jamie Brown 9-16 2-4 25; Kelly Lundgren 7-15 3-3 17; Mo Abdallah 1-1 0-0 2; Jon Walker 7-16 0-0 17; Kevin O'Reilly 0-3 1-2 1; Josh Forster 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 37-86 10-18 93.
Halftime: MSUN 40, MRC 33. Regulation: tied at 85. Three-point goals: MRC 9-26 (Feist 1-4, Powell 0-2, Dela Pena 0-3, Brown 5-10, Walker 3-5, O'Reilly 0-1, Forster 0-1), MSUN 6-20 (Larry Morinia 1-3, Lamar Morinia 2-8, Grant 2-5, McLean 0-2, Bullchild 1-2). Rebounds: MRC 45 (Lundgren 12, O'Reilly 11); MSUN 39 (Harbaugh 9, Sawejka 7) Assists: MRC 34 (Feist 11, Lundgren 7); MSUN 28 (Larry Morinia 8). Total fouls: MRC 13, MSUN 13. Fouled out - none; Technicals - Bullchild.