Havre Daily News Sports Editor
One week removed from a home split with Dak-10 schools Minot State and Valley City State, the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team will travel deep into the heart of Dak-10 country.
The Lights (6-1) will open up a two-game road trip in North Dakota on Saturday evening with a rematch against Minot State. On Sunday, Northern will travel to Dickinson State University to face the Blue Hawks in another nonconference showdown.
Northern has had few close games so far this season, but the Lights head out on the road following a disappointing loss at home last Saturday to Valley City State. The Lights, who fell way behind the Vikings, came back in that game, only to falter in the waning seconds and lose 62-60.
Even more shocking, the loss to Valley City came just 15 hours after Northern crushed Dak-10 Conference favorite Minot State, 98-57. Saturday night, the Lights will look to get back on the winning track against who else, the Beavers.
“We're going into the game against Minot knowing that they are a very good team. We know it is a new night and we're on their floor,” MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. “We just have to make sure we go in there and play good, solid basketball, and if we do that we'll be in a position to win.”
Northern did just that last Friday night. The usually high-scoring Beavers were shut down by the MSU-N defense, and the Lights got a combined 48 points from seniors Marcus Wilson and Jordan Matthews. Given how good the Beavers can be, Northern will have to have a similar effort to escape Minot with a win on Saturday night.
Sunday's game between the Lights and Dickinson State was actually supposed to be on Friday. Due to DSU's volleyball team playing host to the Dak-10 tournament, the game was moved to Sunday afternoon.
The Blue Hawks are coming off a 10-19 season a year ago. DSU was decimated by injuries last year, but players are healthy this year and the Blue Hawks are picked by many to contend for a Dak-10 title in 2005-06.
“They (DSU) are a quick and athletic team with some very good guards,” Huse said. “They play tenacious defense, and they love to speed the tempo of the game way up.”
DSU is led by junior Nate Williams, who transferred from Dawson Community College in Montana where he was an All-American forward. Williams missed most of last season with an injury but is back this year. Shooting guard Omar Smith is also back this season after missing last year with an injury, as are three other DSU upperclassmen.
Sophomore Chad Glasser returns after earning Dak-10 newcomer of the year honors last season. Glasser averaged more than 14 points per game last season as a true freshman. DSU's other returning starters include 6-6 Derek Miller, a forward from Baker, as well as senior Ryan Rosvoldt.
DSU (1-2) is in the midst of 11 straight nonconference games against Frontier Conference opponents. Already, the Bluehawks have lost close decisions to Carroll College and the University of Great Falls. Dickinson's lone win this season came at Rocky Mountain College, a 99-95 decision.
Northern comes into the weekend as one of the top-scoring teams in the NAIA. Matthews is leading the Lights in scoring at nearly 20 points per game. Wilson leads the team in rebounds. But Huse attributes most of the early success this season to the Lights' tremendous depth.
“We are getting great play from our bench, and we will need more of that if we are going to contend for a conference championship this season,” Huse said. “Cody Gillespie, Reid Stovall and Ronnie Simpson are guys who are coming in and doing a great job for us right now.
Saturday's game between MSU-N and Minot State will tip off at 5 p.m. Sunday's tilt between MSU-N and Dickinson State will get under way at 4 p.m.