By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Call it a theft or a throwaway, UM-Western's 89-80 overtime win over the MSU-Northern Lights on Friday night was a bit of both depending on which side of the decision you were on.
Western head coach Mark Durham couldn't help but feel like a thief, considering his team didn't take its first lead of the game until 30 seconds into the overtime on a score inside from Bo Segeberg. The Bulldogs followed that up with a three-pointer from Jeff Graham to push the lead to five.
Northern simply couldn't muster much offensively in the extra period. Western pushed its lead back to five on a tough runner in the lane by guard Derek Hibbert. Matt Luedtke punctuated the win and career-high scoring night with an emphatic two-handed dunk that basically put the game away.
"We absolutely stole that game away from Northern," Durham said. "We didn't even take a lead until overtime. We stole it all the way."
Northern head coach Shawn Huse couldn't help but feel like he saw a big upset be given away as his team watched a six-point lead disappear in a matter of seconds in regulation, and his best player have an opportunity to win the game in regulation.
The Lights led by as many as 10 over the 21st-ranked Bulldogs in the second half. For about 38 minutes of game time, Northern controlled the tempo, the pace and the scoreboard. But the final two minutes proved to be costly.
With Western down, Luedtke willed his team back into the game in the second half, scoring 25 of his 41 points in the second half. The former University of Montana and Colorado School of Mines guard, knocked down a pair of impossible three-pointers in the game's final minute. The last three tied the game at 71 with 4.3 seconds remaining in the game.
After a Northern timeout, junior forward Jordan Matthews took the ball the length of the floor but his desperation runner at the buzzer was no good. However, he was fouled by Jeff Feenstra on the shot, giving Matthews a pair of free throws with no time remaining.
A 63 percent free-throw shooter on the season, all Matthews had to do was sink one of the two for the win. His first shot was agonizingly close to rattling in after hitting a little hard off the back of the rim. Matthews' second shot was well short, much to the delight of the Western players.
"Jordan is a very good player who I recruited to play for us," Durham said. "There was no way I thought he was going to miss both free throws. I was literally at half-court ready to shake Shawn's hand when they called the foul."
Said Huse: "There is no question that we let that game slip away from us. But it didn't come down to one person or one play. It was a lot of things. When we have a team down like that and we are in control, we have to put teams away. We didn't to that against Western."
Those things that Huse referred to were turnovers, missed free-throws and just poor offensive execution in the game's final five minutes.
"I really thought we defended Western as well as we can considering their weapons," Huse said. "But we just didn't finish the game offensively. We got tentative and starting turning the ball over. We need to have a guy step up and want to take shots in those situations. We have to have that killer instinct."
Indeed, the final five minutes overshadowed an otherwise solid peformance from the Lights.
Northern outhustled, outscrapped and generally outplayed the Bulldogs in the first half, taking a 39-31 lead.
Marcus Wilson and Reid Stovall combined for 20 points and nine rebounds in the first half, frustrating Western's massive center Segeberg.
"Bo really has a hard time boxing out and defending the smaller post players," Durham said. "Wilson really hurt us inside. We knew we would have a tough time matching up against their quickness. We had to go with a smaller lineup at times."
The Lights continued to control the tempo in the second half, despite Luedtke absolutely taking over Western's offense. The Frontier's leading scorer had a somewhat quiet 16 points in the first half. But he made plenty of noise in the second half, scoring from all over, including three three-pointers and 10-11 shooting from the free-throw line. His final numbers included 10-22 shooting from the field with seven three-pointers and 10 points from free throws and a pair of dunks.
"I don't remember how many open shots he had, but I don't think it was many," Huse said. "He can certainly score with a person right on him."
Said Durham: "Obviously Matt kept us in the game. He competes and there's a reason why he is averaging 25 points a game. He stepped up when we needed him to step up and he made some big plays."
Besides Luedtke, Segeberg finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the game - 16 of them coming in the second half. Graham, the former Chester standout, had 10 points and seven assists, includng a pair of three-pointers.
Wilson led Northern with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Stovall added 15 points and eight rebounds.
Even though the loss hurt, Huse saw plenty of good things.
"There were a lot of positives to take from that game, especially the individual efforts," he said. "Marcus and Reid both had great games for us. Cody Gillespie and Cory Brothers both came off the bench and gave us some good contributions. We definitely showed that we can compete in this league with the way we played."
As disappointing as the loss was, Huse and his team still had another game left to play on Saturday night against Montana Tech.
Northern overcame the physical and mental fatigue from the night before to scrap out a 68-57 win over the Orediggers.
"We only have three players with any Frontier Conference experience," Huse said. "Playing back-to-back conference games is really just as mentally draining as it is physically. There is a very short time to recover and refocuse. We knew that we might come out a little flat early on."
The Lights weren't exactly flat, but they didn't have the same type energy as against Western. The undermanned Diggers took advantage, playing Northern tough early on despite missing starting point guard Luke Harman and starting forward Jake Williams.
Northern couldn't buy a basket early on. Matthews scored the first points of the game on a 17-foot jump shot. However, the Lights wouldn't make another shot for the next eight minutes, allowing Tech to take a 10-2 lead. Brothers broke the scoreless drought with a three-pointer from the corner, sparking a 24-5 run and giving the Lights a 26-15 lead with 3:27 remaining in the first half.
The Lights would never trail again, keeping a solid cushion throughout the second half. Tech got as close as five, 46-41, on one of Davin Blixt's seven three-pointers at the 9:36 mark. Northern answered with eight unanswered points to put the game away.
Wilson recorded his second straight double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Matthews rebounded with 17 points and five rebounds. Blixt was Tech's only player in double figures with a game-high 29 points.
"I don't think we played one of our best games," Huse admitted. "We did what we had to do defensively and found ways to make enough shots to win the game. I was really proud of our guys for hanging in there and gutting out a win."
Northern will return to action on Thursday in Billings against Rocky Mountain College. The Lights will face Carroll College in Helena on Saturday.
UM-WESTERN 89, MSU-NORTHERN 80
UM-WESTERN (12-5, 1-0)
Jeff Feenstra 0-4 0-0 0, Brandon Day 1-2 0-2 2, Bo Segeberg 10-17 2-2 22, Jeff Graham 3-7 2-2 10, Matt Luedtke 12-22 10-11 41, Derek Hibbert 3-4 0-1 6, Chad Myers 1-2 0-0 3, Tyler Palmer 1-5 1-2 3, Matt Cornelius 1-1 0-1 2. Totals 32-64 15-2 89.
MSU-NORTHERN (9-6, 0-1)
Reid Stovall 6-10 3-4 15, Marcus Wilson 11-18 0-0 22, Jordan Matthews 2-9 3-6 9, Landen Grant 1-4 0-0 3, Leo Bullchild 3-5 1-1 9, Rodrick Carter 1-5 0-0 3, Cory Brothers 4-8 0-1 9, Antonio Jordan 0-5 4-4 4, Cody Gillespie 2-6 0-0 4, Tim Hutchins 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 31-71 11-16 80.
Halftime - MSU-N 39-31. Regulation - 71-71. 3-point goals - UM-W 10-28 (Feenstra 0-2, Graham 2-5, Luedtke 7-15, Myers 1-2, Palmer 0-4), MSU-N 7-20 (Stovall 0-1, Matthews 2-5, Grant 1-3, Bullchild 2-2, Carter 1-2, Brothers 1-3, Jordan 0-2, Gillespie 0-2). Rebounds - UM-W 36 (Segeberg 11), MSU-N 43 (Wilson 12). Assists - UM-W 20 (Graham 7), MSU-N 25 (Matthews 6). Turnovers - UM-W 17, MSU-N 18. Total fouls - UM-W 17, MSU-N 17. Fouled out - Matthews. Technicals - none.
MSU-NORTHERN 68, MONTANA TECH 57
MONTANA TECH (0-2, 5-13)
Davin Blixt 8-21 6-9 29, Andy Anderson 1-4 0-0 2, Kellen Ori 0-2 2-2 2, Kenny Herbst 4-12 0-3 9, Billy Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Brandon Steadman 0-1 2-2 2, Casey Briggs 2-4 2-2 6, Robbie Redekopp 1-3 3-4 5. Totals 17-48 15-22 57.
MSU-NORTHERN (1-1, 10-6)
Reid Stovall 2-9 0-0 4, Marcus Wilson 7-12 2-3 16, Jordan Matthews 5-9 7-9 17, Landen Grant 2-5 0-0 4, Leo Bullchild 1-5 0-0 3, Rodrick Carter 1-3 1-2 3, Cory Brothers 2-4 3-3 8, Antonio Jordan 1-1 3-4 6, Cody Gillespie 1-4 2-2 4, Tim Hutchins 1-1 1-3 3. Totals 23-53 19-25 68.
Halftime - MSU-N 30-23. 3-pointers - Tech 8-17 (Blixt 7-14, Ori 0-1, Herbst 1-1, Steadman 0-1), MSU-N 3-13 (Stovall 0-1, Matthews 0-2, Grant 0-2, Bullchild 1-4, Brothers 1-2, Jordan 1-1, Gillespie 0-1). Rebounds - Tech 30 (Herbst 7), MSU-N 36 (Wilson 10). Assists - Tech 13 (Anderson 7), MSU-N 15 (Matthews 3, Bullchild 3). Turnovers - Tech 21, MSU-N 15. Total fouls - Tech 21, MSU-N 20. Fouled out - none. Technicals - MSU-N bench.