George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
The Montana State University- Northern men’s basketball team has already played one of the most difficult nonconference schedules in head coach Shawn Huse’s tenure at MSU-N. On Saturday, Northern will close out that schedule, and 2006 with one more tough game when the Lights welcome the University of Saskatchewan to the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse at 1:30 p.m. In a season in which the Lights have already played NCAA Division I foes Montana, Northern Arizona and Colorado State, as well as two of the top three teams in NAIA basketball, it won’t be a shock to play one of the top Canadian college basketball teams as a prelude to the rough and tumble Frontier Conference. League play begins next weekend for MSU-N when the Lights go on the road to face Carroll College and Rocky Mountain College. The Lights (9-5) last played in the Cruisin Classic in Florida earlier this month when they fell to No. 3 Azusa Pacific. MSU-N also beat NCAA Division III Adrian College in Florida. Northern’s last home game came on Dec. 15 when the Lights routed NCAA Division II Dixie State College at the MSU-N Fieldhouse. The Lights come into Saturday’s game with the Huskies playing good team basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor. And that fact should serve Northern well in conference play. Still, MSU-N is getting good production on offense, especially from guards Delvaughn Tinned and Ronnie Simpson. Tinned leads MSU-N in scoring, and he scored 30 points against Dixie State. Tinned’s performance against Dixie State and Adrian earned him conference player of the week as he nailed a combined 11 3-pointers in those two games. The Lights are also starting to get a solid post presence from transfer Drew Pettersen. And transfer forwards Erv Simms and Durwin Williams have been carrying the bulk of the rebounding duties for the last month. But as well as MSU-N has been playing as of late, and as tough a schedule as the Lights have played this season, they will have their hands full with the Huskies (9-11) on Saturday. Saskatchewan is predicted to be a national title contender in Canada this season, and the Huskies have played several of the same teams that MSU-N has faced this season, including the University of Regina and Brandon University. The Huskies are in Butte tonight to face Montana Tech and former MSU-N assistant coach Nate Larson. The Huskies, who thumped MSU-N in a nonconference game last season, have a wealth of talent, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Andrew Spagrud, a 6-8 center, figures to be the focal point of the MSU-N defense Saturday. Spagrud is scoring 20 points per game and pulling down nine rebounds per outing this season. And Spagrud has gone up against some of the best talent in college basketball this season as the Huskie faced Mississippi State and Arizona in exhibition games to start the year. MSU-N will also have to be concerned with 6-0 shooting guard Kyle Grant, who is averaging 15.1 points per game. Grant is a dangerous 3-point shooter, but he can also drive to the basket and get to the foul line. Power forward Rejean Chabot is the third Huskie averaging in double digits. Chabot is chipping in with 11.9 points and five rebounds per game. As a team, the Huskies defense is solid, but could be viewed as a weakness in their armor as evidenced by their plus-two scoring margin. Saskatchewan averages 77.5 points per game and gives up 75.5 points per game. MSU-N is averaging around 71 points per game on offense. Tip off for Saturday’s game was changed from its original start time of 7 p. m. The game between MSU-N and Saskatchewan will get under way at 1:30 p. m. at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.