The Montana State University-Northern men’s basketball team has played just two games in the last four weeks.
But things are about to get very busy for the Lights (6-3). Tonight and Saturday, MSU-N is in Lewiston, Idaho for a tournament hosted by Lewis-Clark State, then Northern will come straight back to Havre in time for its first home game in over a month when the Lights take on Concordia College of Alberta on Sunday night.
“This weekend is going to be a challenge for our team for sure,” MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. “We play two very good teams in Idaho, then have to find a way to get rested on the way home and get ourselves ready to play a solid team on Sunday night.
“We also haven’t played many games lately,” he added. “So there will be some game rust at times this weekend. So there are certainly some challenges ahead for our guys, but I think they will be ready to go. They are anxious to get back on the court and play some basketball games.”
And if the Lights are looking for challenges, they need look no further than tonight’s game against Azusa Pacific in Idaho. The Cougars were the NAIA preseason No. 1 team and are ranked No. 9 in the country coming into tonight’s 5:30 tilt with the Lights. Azusa has size with four starters over 6-5, so defensively, the Lights are going to have their hands full.
“The preseason No. 1 team in the country, and they (Cougars) have beat some very good teams already this season,” Huse said. “They have a tremendous amount of size and good depth, so defensively, we are really going to have to be very good against them. We are going to have to rebound the basketball well all night in order to stay with them. But no matter what, it will be a very good test for our program.”
And the Lights have already been tested, having lost by one point to the current No. 1 team in the country, Robert Morris of Illinois last month in Las Vegas. Northern clocked on offense against Robert Morris, and the Lights did so again in their last two wins, two weeks ago in Canada.
The Lights are getting double figures scoring from Shaun Tatarka, Devin Jackson and LaVon Myers, and are getting good inside production from Joe Simpson and Chris Brown as well as huge contributions off the bench from David Maddock.
And they’ll need all of that and more this weekend.
After the Lights play Azusa tonight, they’ll face Portland Bible College on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., then return to Havre to face Concordia on Sunday night at 8 p.m.
“We don’t know a lot about Portland Bible College, but they’ve beaten some good NAIA teams this season, so we expect them to be very strong,” Huse said. “It looks like they are very good on the perimeter and are a high-scoring team, so again, playing good defense will be a big key for us, and we’ll have to really be focused after playing Azusa the night before.
“We do know that Concordia will be very good,” he added. “They played us very tough here last year and have a lot of the same players. Plus we will be coming off a long road trip and two tough games. So that is certainly going to be a big challenge for us. But I also think our guys will be excited for that game. They’ve been looking forward to getting to play at home for a long time now, they’ve been excited about being back in our gym, in front of our fans so I don’t think they’ll have any trouble finding the energy for that game.”
After the Lights play their two games in Lewiston, Idaho this weekend, they will be back in Havre for four straight games to wrap up nonconference play. Northern hosts Concordia on Sunday night at 8 p.m. and will also host King’s University of Edmonton, Alberta on Wednesday night.