By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
On the bright side for the Okanagan University College men's basketball team, things could have been much worse in Thursday night's 106-69 shellacking by the MSU-Northern Lights.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they have to play the Lights again tonight.
After fighting hard for a victory the night before, Northern (8-5) took the intrigue out of the game early against the undermanned Lakers almost immediately following the opening tip.
Jordan Matthews nailed a three-pointer and Marcus Wilson scored a pair of baskets inside on the Lights' first three possessions to take an early 7-0 lead.
Okanagan, which hails from Kelowna, British Columbia, made things interesting early by tying the game at seven on a three-pointer and two baskets from Henry Sarikas.
However, Reid Stovall scored off a nice pass inside from Matthews to retake the lead. From that point, the game turned from interesting into lopsided.
Northern outscored Okanagan 21-8 over the next eight minutes to turn the game into a blowout. The Lights continued to pour it on in the first half, rolling to a 56-27 lead and shooting a scorching 59 percent from the field.
"We came out strong and set the tone early on," said Lights head coach Shawn Huse. "It was good to see after having a tough game the night before."
The second half wasn't much better for Okanagan. The Lakers did manage to score 42 points in the second half in comparison to Northern's 50 second-half points. But the Lakers got most of their buckets mainly because the Lights tried to shore up their full-court pressure and assorted defenses.
"We were able to work on some different things and try some different defenses and personnel combinations," Huse said. "Some things worked well, some things didn't work well at all, but that's what you do in games like that. It's important to work on things that need to be improved."
Stovall rebounded from a frustrating performance on Wednesday night against Haskell University to lead a group of six Lights players in double figures with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Against Haskell, foul trouble limited Stovall to just 19 minutes and four points and two rebounds.
"Reid really hustled and got his points by cleaning up some of our misses," Huse said. "I know he wanted to come out and play well after not getting much time against Haskell."
Matthews continued his solid play with 15 points and nine assists.
"Jordan shot the ball really well tonight from the outside which is good to see," Huse said. "He was also very unselfish and made some nice passes and got a lot of people involved."
Wilson had 14 points and nine rebounds, while Antonio Jordan came off the bench to score 13 points and dish out five assists. The freshman tandem of Cody Gillespie and Cory Brothers chipped in with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Sarikas led Okanagan with 29 points, while Matt Gowing added 26 in the losing effort.
"I was pleased with our effort," Huse said. "It's hard to stay focused when you are up big compared to when you are down, but we maintained our intensity. We also stayed unselfish which is good to see."
The two teams will square off again tonight at 7 p.m in Shelby. The venue change is just something Huse wanted to try after working with basketball coach with Shelby High School boys basketball coach and former HHS standout Tom Reynolds during the summer.
"We're excited about the opportunity to play in Shelby," Huse said. "It gives people out of the area a chance to see us play. We are going to play the game and the Shelby booster club is having a pot luck dinner afterward. We get a chance to meet new people and hopefully establish some new fans. It's a real positive on night that many people associate with negative things."
MSU-NORTHERN 106, OKANAGAN 69
OKANAGAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE (n/a)
Alain Rivere 2-2 0-0 4; Matt Gowing 10-16 6-8 26; Kris English 0-5 1-2 1; Chad Pratch 3-6 0-0 7; Henry Sarikas 11-18 3-4 29; Tyrone Reeder 0-0 1-2 1; Tom Nguyen 0-1 1-4 1; Joel Brazier 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 26-49 12-20 69.
Reid Stovall 11-16 2-2 24; Marcus Wilson 7-12 0-1 14; Jordan Matthews 5-11 2-2 15; Landen Grant 3-6 0-0 7; Leo Bullchild 3-7 0-0 8; Cory Brothers 4-6 1-2 11; Antonio Jordan