Havre Daily News sports editor
Call it a letdown from an emotional win over Carroll College, call it a long bus ride, call it sluggish play on the road. You can characterize Thursday night's game between Montana State University-Northern and Westminster College any way you want.
But MSU-Northern men's head coach Shawn Huse calls Westminster's 88-71 win in Salt Lake City a solid performance in which the Griffins played at an extremely high level, and the No. 24 Lights did not.
“Our effort was very good,” Huse said. “I think our intensity and hustle was the same as it was against Carroll. But we didn't execute well, especially offensively, and Westminster did.
“You have to give all the credit to them,” he added. “They play a tough style of basketball and we just didn't respond well to it tonight.”
The margin wasn't so lopsided with 10 minutes left in the game. Northern fought its way back from a 48-35 halftime deficit, and twice cut the Griffins' lead to five points. But on a night when the shots weren't falling for the Lights, that was as close as they were going to get.
“I'm proud of the way we came back,” Huse said. “We put ourselves in a pretty big bind in the first half. But we played well to get their lead under 10 points late in the second half. In the end, though, we just couldn't get all the way over the hump.”
The Lights only shot a shade over 50 percent from the field for the night and only made 10 trips to the free-throw line. Those numbers are tough to overcome, especially when playing from behind.
Conversely, the Griffins hit on 60 percent of their field goal attempts and went 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. They put four players in double figures and got 26 points from Nick Booth and 22 from Danny Reeder. Jared Ruiz and Brandon Sholly added 13 points apiece.
“They are a very good team and they execute at a very high level,” Huse said. “Basically the game came down to the fact that they made their shots and we didn't.”
The Lights got a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds from Jordan Matthews in his annual homecoming game. Matthews and teammate Brian Erickson are Salt Lake natives. Reid Stovall came off the bench to score 14 points and Yanif Ducreay added 10.
“This was a tough loss and we knew coming down here that it would be a tough road trip,” Huse said. “A split on the road is a victory, so now we just have to get some rest and try to get a win in Idaho on Saturday night.
Northern (14-6, 3-2) will visit Lewis-Clark State on Saturday night in Lewiston, Idaho. Game time is set for 9 p.m. The Griffins (12-5, 2-2) host the University of Great Falls, also on Saturday night.
Griffins 88, Lights 71
MSU-N - Jordan Matthews 5-10 2-2 15, Cory Brothers 3-7 0-0 6, Brian Erickson 2-3 1-1 5, Marcus Wilson 3-5 2-2 8, Yanif Ducreay 5-5 0-0 10, Nick Hittner 1-2 0-0 3, Leo Bullchild 1-4 0-0 2, Reid Stovall 6-8 0-0 14, Cody Gillespie 1-4 2-2 4, Ronnie Simpson 1-4 2-2 4. Totals: 28-52 9-10 71.
WC - Jared Ruiz 5-13 0-0 13, Brandon Sholly 4-6 3-3 13, Danny Reeder 10-13 2-2 22, Lance Barton 2-3 2-2 6, Nick Booth 7-13 12-20 26, Rob Holcombe 3-3 2-3 8. Totals: 31-52 21-30 88.
3-point goals - MSU-N 6-19 (Matthews 3, Hittner 1, Stovall 2), WC 5-9 (Ruiz 3, Sholly 2); Rebounds - MSU-N 29 (Matthews 8), WC 19 (Barton 6); Total fouls - MSU-N 24, WC 14; Fouled out - Simpson.