By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Once is a nothing to get upset over, twice is a coincidence, three times you shake your head in disbelief and the fourth time? You start to worry.
The Montana State University-Northern opening night shooting woes continued for the fourth straight week as the Lights fell to the Westminster College Griffins 81-67 Thursday night at Payne Gymnasium in Salt Lake City.
There is something about that first game of the weekend that sends the Lights into a shooting funk and Thursday night was no different. Northern shot a cool 41 percent from the field. Although it doesn't sound horrible, it was far from pretty.
The Lights managed just 25-first half points, attempted only 55 field goals in the entire game and had only two players score in double figures.
"We were missing shots and only getting the one shot on a possession," said head coach Shawn Huse. "I suspect we were on defense for two-thirds of the game."
It's not like Huse hasn't seen the cold shooting before, but it's tough to watch especially when Westminster wasn't missing much.
"You have to shoot better to win on the road; it's that simple," Huse said "Especially when you're opponent shoots 57 percent in the game."
Actually, Northern played pretty well defensively in the first half, holding the Westminster to 36 first-half points and trailing by only 11 despite not being able to throw it in the ocean.
"I thought our effort and intensity was great," Huse said. "Defensively, we were playing pretty well in the first-half and doing what we wanted. Our shots just weren't falling. We couldn't hit anything."
The pressure of a struggling offense began to wear on Northern defensively and Westminster took advantage as a Nick Booth basket put the Griffins up 44-29 with 15:48 remaining in the game. It was a lead the Lights could not overcome, never closing the gap to within single digits at any point after that.
Westminster shot 68 percent from the field in the second half and sank 18 of 25 free throws to close the game out.
"They are very good free-throw shooting team and they made their tonight," Huse said. "We didn't do a bad job defensively in the second half either. They shot the ball very well to open the half and then scored a lot of their points when the game was already out of reach."
The Frontier Conference's leading scorer Adam Hiatt had another typical night, scoring 29 points while grabbing six rebounds and handing out four assists.
"Hiatt is the real deal," Huse said. "He's a tremendous player and very tough to defend. Right now if I had to vote on the Frontier Conference MVP, he'd definitely get some heavy consideration."
Westminster's only other player in double figures was Matt Mark with 10 points.
"It show how big of a part Hiatt is to their team," Huse said. "He did the bulk of the damage."
Northern also only had two players, the Morinia brothers, in double figures. Larry Morinia scored 18 points while his brothe,r Lamar, added 12.
Huse is definitely wary of the trend of his team struggling offensively on opening nights. Even more concerning is how well teams play against Northern on that first night, including Westminster.
"We just didn't play a very good game and they played a great game," Huse said. "Our poor shooting made it look even worse."
One bright spot for Huse is how his team has rebounded on the second game of each of the past weekends.
"We're not going to let this affect us," Huse said. "We have to just focus on LC (Lewis-Clark State) on Saturday and try to get a split."
Northern and Lewis-Clark tip off at 8 p.m. and can be heard on 92.5 KPQX-FM.
Westminster 81, MSU-N orthern 67
Larry Morinia 4-9 9-10 18, Reid Stovall 0-2 0-0 0, Lamar Morinia 5-9 1-4 12, Landen Grant 2-3 0-0 6, Trenton Harbaugh 2-4 2-4 6, Zach McLean 2-2 0-0 6, Leo Bullchild 2-5 0-0 5, Walter Runsabove 1-7 0-0 2, Travis Moran 1-4 1-2 4, Steve Ahrens 1-1 0-0 2, Dustin Sawejka 3-9 0-0 6. Totals 23-55 13-20 67.
Booth 4-9 0-0 8, Mark 4-7 2-2 10, Rajamaki 3-4 0-1 10, Butler 2-4 1-1 6, Hiatt 8-11 11-12 29, Cramer 1-1 1-2 3, Wardle 0-0 0-0 0, Roberts 1-1 0-0 2, Humphreys 0-0 0-0 0, Ware 0-0 0-2 0, Howard 0-0 0-0 0, Buroker 1-3 4-5 7, Sanchez 3-7 2-3 8, Stock 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 27-47 23-30 81.
Halftime - Westminster 36, MSUN 25. Three-point goals - MSUN 8-18 (Larry Morinia 1-3, Stovall 0-1, Lamar Morinia 1-2, Grand 2-3, McLean 2-2, Bullchild 1-2, Runsabove 0-3, Moran 1-2), Westminster 4-8 (Butler 1-2, Hiatt 2-4, Buroker 1-2). Rebounds - MSUN 21 (Harbaugh 6), Westminster 37 (Sanchez 8). Assists - MSUN 8 (Sawejka 3), Westminster 16 (Hiatt 4). Total fouls - MSUN 20, Westminster 17. Fouled out - None. Technical Fouls - None.