Havre Daily News sports editor
BUTTE - Like an avalanche or a tornado, it came quick and it came without much warning. That is how the Montana State University-Northern Lights must have felt Friday night in their 92-49 loss to Carroll College in the semfinals of the Frontier Conference tournament in Butte.
The Saints bombarded the Lights with 17 3-pointers and 48 first-half points in one of the worst losses in MSU-N history.
“When something like this happens you just have to tip your hat to Carroll and say congratulations,” MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. “In my opinion that was the best they have played all year. And I'm not sure that this wasn't our worst game of the year. That is a bad combination.”
The game started out innocently enough with Kurt Paulson scoring first for Carroll and the Lights' Yanif Ducreay answering. But, what ensued after the 2-2 tie was an awesome display of one-sided basketball as the Saints rained in trey after trey to build a 29-11 lead with 7:16 remaining in the first half.
While Carroll made everything look easy, MSU-N struggled mightily for everything it got. Northern shot the ball poorly, shot free-throws poorly and had trouble defending all night, despite being a very good defensive team most of the season.
With Carroll leading 48-20 at halftime, the game and the Lights' season was all but over.
“They were certainly clicking on all cylinders,” Huse said. “They really came in on a mission and we were really flat. But even if we had been playing our best basketball, I'm not sure it would have mattered. That's how good they were.”
Indeed, even though the Saints scored 92 points, the most they got from one player was 19 by Travis Williams. As a team though, the Saints shot a sizzling 58 percent from the floor and made an eye-popping 17-of-24 3-pointers. Williams and Sinan Guler each made three trey's.
Northern didn't have a single player reach double figures. In the final game of his career, MSU-N senior Jordan Matthews was held to seven points which led the Lights in the scoring column. Marcus Wilson and Reid Stovall were next with six points apiece.
“It was a really tough way to finish the season,” Huse said. “But one thing I am really proud of these kids for is their effort. Even when the game was well out of reach, they never quit. No matter who we put in the game, they played like they could come back.”
The loss overshadowed Northern's dramatic last-second win over UM-Western on Thursday night. But Huse was quick not to let it overshadow or define the season the Lights (19-13) have had.
“You can look at things two different ways,” he said. “On one hand you can always find things that we could have done better.
“But we also had one of the best finishes of any Northern team since 1998,” he added. “And we beat the two best team's in the conference and we won a tournament game. I think we took a big step in the right direction this season and we did a lot of good things that the guys we have coming back can reflect upon and build on for next season.”
The Saints went on to defeat Westminster College on Saturday night in the championship game. Both Carroll and Westminster will move on to the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City.
Saints 92, Lights 49
MSU-N - Marcus Wilson 3-5 0-1 6, Yanif Ducreay 1-3 0-0 2, Jordan Matthews 3-7 0-0 7, Cory Brothers 2-6 0-1 5, Brian Erickson 0-4 4-4 4, Nick Hittner 1-1 0-0 2, Leo Bullchild 1-1 2-2 5, Reid Stovall 3-7 0-1 6, Cody Gillespie 1-4 0-1 2, Ronnie Simpson 1-1 2-2 5, Adrian Nelson 1-1 0-0 2, Pathe Yatera 1-3 1-1 3. Totals: 18-44 9-13 49.
CC - Travis Williams 8-10 0-0 19, Ross Gustafason 4-5 0-0 8, Kurt Paulson 5-8 0-2 12, Jeff Hays 2-3 0-0 6, Sinan Guler 3-6 3-3 12, Zachary Pitts 3-5 0-0 9, Chad Vaculin 1-4 0-0 2, Dallas Leslie 3-6 0-0 9, Gage Brumwell 5-6 0-0 11, Chris Kaschmitter 1-2 2-4 4. Totals: 35-55 5-9 92.
Halftime - CC 48-20. 3-pointers - MSUN 4-14 (Matthews 1-3, Brothers 1-6, Bullchild 1-1, Simpson 1-1), CC 17-24 (Williams 3-4, Paulson 2-4, Hays 2-2, Guler 3-4, Pitts 3-4, Leslie 3-4, Brumwell 1-1). Rebounds - MSU-N 24 (Wilson 3, Stovall 3), CC 27 (Gustafson 7, Brumwell 4). Fouls - MSU-N 11, Carr 15. Fouled out - Kaschmitter.