For the Montana State University-Northern men’s and women’s basketball teams, Saturday night’s home games aren’t just about playing a Frontier Conference rival. And they aren’t just about starting the stretch run of the regular season.
Instead, Saturday’s games against the University of Great Falls will also be about redemption.
Combined, the Lights and Skylights lost four road games at Westminster and Lewis-Clark State last weekend, and those losses came on the heels of a four-game winning home stand against Carroll and Rocky Mountain College the week before.
But as the two MSU-N teams start the second half of the Frontier season, both the Lights and Skylights have five of their last seven games at home, and progress towards the postseason starts with the Argos on Saturday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.
That progress won’t be easy for the Skylights (2-5, 11-12), however. UGF (2-5, 9-13) beat the Skylights 83-75 last month in Great Falls, and the Argos have been one of the surprise teams this season. And while Northern head coach Chris Mount knows first-hand his team will have its hands full with UGF on Saturday, especially with how well former Great Falls High stars Kezia Ford, Marissa Skogen and Jamie Young are playing, his concern is making sure his team is playing well at the right time.
“We have to be able to put the road losses behind us, and get ready to play a good UGF team at home,” Mouat said. “We have a group of kids who are working and playing hard right now, and we do feel like we’ve gotten better. But now we need to start finishing games, winning games, and we need to take advantage of playing on our home floor and that starts against a really good UGF team.”
The Lights (4-3, 15-7) will also have their hands full with the Argos (2-5, 9-13). Northern was dominant against UGF the first time out, but the Lights come home in a rare 3-point shooting slump and the Argos are coming off an impressive win over Lewis-Clark State last Saturday in Idaho. So while Northern does have a convincing win over the Argos this season, the second time around, things never get any easier. And Northern head coach Shawn Huse knows that with standouts like L.J. Jones, Melvin Williams, Norman Towns and sharpshooter Mark Celeya, the Argos won’t get out of the Lights march towards the postseason without a dogfight Saturday night in Havre.
“We know just how solid UGF is,” Huse said. “We aren’t fooled by their record, because we’ve already played them once, and we know they have beaten some very good teams in our league already. We didn’t shoot the ball very well on this last road trip and that’s something we hope to get turned around. So we’re just taking it one game at a time, and that starts with our next opponent, a very solid UGF team.”
Saturday’s games start a three-game homestand for the Lights and Skylights, who also host Montana Tech and UM-Western next weekend. Saturday’s women’s game between the Skylights and Argos tips off at 6 p.m. and the Lights and Argos follow at 8 p.m. at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.