Havre Daily News sports editor
The Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team is finding out how the other half lives. Earlier in the season, the Skylights ripped off a sensational six-game winning streak. However, after a 73-53 loss to No. 13 Lewis-Clark State on Saturday night in Lewiston, Idaho, and extremely close losses to Carroll College last weekend and Westminster College on Thursday night, the No. 24 Skylights and head coach Chris Mouat find themselves mired in a three-game losing skid.
Despite the lopsided margin of defeat Saturday night, the Skylights battled LC State for most of the contest. Once again, Northern found itself struggling with foul trouble, as well as fighting fatigue and nagging injuries. The Skylights trailed by just one point at halftime and played well throughout most of the second half. But Mouat said the game got away from them in the final seven minutes.
“I am proud of the way our kids battled against a very good team, who is very tough to beat on their home floor,” Mouat said. “We played well for most of the game, and we had a good game plan. But they really wore us down and the game got ugly for us in the final seven minutes.”
The 20-point margin was Northern's worst loss of the season. The loss to the Warriors (18-2, 6-0) dropped the Skylights to 2-4 in Frontier Conference play, and 12-6 overall.
Despite their difficulties in Idaho, Mouat said his team fought hard and will bounce back from the loss.
“We have a very resilient team and they have been that way all year,” he said. “We were playing through a lot of pain on Saturday night. Camille Gardner is banged up, and Neesha Bravard broke her nose during the game.
“You also have to give a lot of credit to LC State,” he added. “As hard as we fought and as well as we played, they are a very good team, and they are big and strong and they wore us down and put us away at the end of the game.”
As they have all season, Northern's undersized forwards had trouble containing their bigger counterparts in the paint. The forward duo of Ashley Baker (6-3) and Aundrea Morrison (6-1) scored 17 and 16 points for LC State, respectively, and the pair combined for 19 rebounds. In all, the Skylights lost the battle of the boards badly, as the Warriors pulled down 54 rebounds to Northern's 24.
“We have got to do a better job rebounding the basketball,” Mouat said. “We gave up way too many second-chance points, especially late in the game, and that is just a result of poor rebounding on the defensive end of the floor.”
The loss overshadowed another herculean effort by MSU-N senior Jaci Heny, who scored a game-high 26 points. Heny made three of Northern's four 3-pointers and she went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line.
“Jaci really played well once again,” Mouat said. “She really carried the load offensively for us, and she is just such a tough competitor.
“This was a tough loss for us, but I really believe we have shown that we can compete with anybody in this league,” Mouat added. “Now we just have to heal up and rest up and get ready for a good University of Great Falls team this weekend.”
The Skylights will visit UGF on Saturday night in Great Falls.
Warriors 73, Skylights 53
MSU-N - DeLayne Johnston 1-5 5-6 7, Jena Heggem 1-5 0-0 2, Michele VanDyke 3-8 1-1 7, Camille Gardner 2-9 0-0 5, Jaci Heny 7-16 9-10 26, Neesha Bravard 1-1 0-0 2, Ashley Trulock 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 17-46 15-17 53.
LCS - Katie Hart 0-5 1-2 1, Jade Fulbright 6-11 1-1 13, Cami Kalbfleisch 1-8 2-4 4, Ashley Baker 7-13 3-6 17, Aundrea Morrison 6-12 4-5 16, Terri Whitmer 1-4 1-2 3, Kim Preston 1-2 0-0 2, Katya Yancheva 0-2 2-2 2, Janeen Nelson 2-6 0-0 5, Vanessa West 4-8 2-2 10. Totals: 28-71 16-24 73.
3-point goals - MSU-N 4-13 (Gardner 1, Heny 3), LCS 1-14 (Nelson); Rebounds - MSU-N 24 (Johnston 8), LCS 54 (Kalbfleisch 10, Morrison 10); Total fouls - MSU-N 21, LCS 19; Fouled out - None.