Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Montana State University-Northern head men's basketball coach Shawn Huse admits he doesn't know a lot about Saturday afternoon's opponent, the University of Regina. What Huse does know is that the Cougars will provide a stern test for the Lights' 2005-06 home opener.
“I know that they have beaten the top team in Canada already this season,” Huse said. “If they beat the University of Saskatchewan, it means they are a very good team. They are undefeated so far this year, and they have played some quality teams, so we're expecting a tough battle.”
The Lights are also off to a perfect start on the young season. Northern went 3-0 on its first road trip of the season, a three-day journey to Edmonton, Alberta. In Canada. MSU-N soundly defeated three good Canadian college basketball teams, and Huse learned a lot about his team along the way.
“I still think we're ahead of where we were last year,” Huse said. “I just think that the experience we had coming back this year makes a huge difference.
“Early in the season, teams sometimes struggle to get into the flow of a basketball game,” he added. “But with all of the leaders we have, things have gone pretty smooth so far.”
Indeed, the Lights' veteran players are leading the way, as expected. Senior Jordan Mathews is leading the team in scoring and has already been named Frontier Conference player of the week once this season. Fellow senior Marcus Wilson is already assuming his usual role as the team's leading rebounder and defensive stopper.
Sophomores Cory Brothers and Cody Gillespie are emerging as well. Brothers led the Lights in scoring in one of its games in Canada, scoring 19 points - 18 of those coming by way of the 3-point line.
The Lights' newcomers are also making an immediate impact. Center Yanif Ducreay, swingman Ronnie Simpson and point guard Brian Erickson are all playing well early, and their transition to NAIA basketball has gone well. All of that leads Huse to say that, while it's early in the season, depth will be one of his team's strong points.
“Our bench looks very good right now,” Huse said. “We have good size and more scoring coming off the bench this year.
“I definitely think we're a much deeper team than last year,” he added. “Last season we lost a lot of close games because teams wore us down late. I don't think that will happen to us this year.”
As for Saturday's tilt with Regina, Huse said all he wants to see from his team is continued improvement and lots of effort. Wins and losses this early in the year are not as much of a concern as making sure the team is headed in the right direction as the Frontier Conference season approaches.
“Last year Regina did not have a very good season,” Huse said. “But I expect them to come in here with a very good team on Saturday.
“We'll have our work cut out for us against them” he added. “I just want our guys to come out and play hard, and hopefully we will put on a good showing against them.”
Saturday's game between MSU-N and the University of Regina will tip off at 4 p.m. at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse in Havre.