It would have been easy for the Montana State University-Northern men’s basketball team to let down after Friday night’s thrilling win over UM-Western.
Instead, the Lights were focused and dominant. Northern took control of the Frontier Conference by thumping Montana Tech 60-38 Saturday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. Following the sweep of Western and Tech, the No. 25 Lights stand at 7-3 in the Frontier and all alone in first place with four games to go.
“It would have been very easy to not be as focused tonight, after last night’s emotional game,” Northern head coach Shawn Huse said after the win over his alma mata on Saturday night. “But this team is becoming very poised and very focused and they really have a grasp on how important each and every night is in this league, and that you can’t overlook anybody. So while we played very well against a Tech team I think is a very good team, I’m most proud of the fact that we were focused and ready to play again tonight. Our kids deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Northern was indeed, ready play. The Lights came out determined on defense, and while Tech intentionally slows the game down, routinely running the shot clock down to two or three seconds before taking a shot, the Lights’ defense was so good in the first half, even that didn’t help the Orediggers’ cause. Northern held the Tech to 14 points in the first 20 points, and led 27-14 at intermission. The game was never close from there. LaVon Myers hit three straight 3-pointers to spark Northern to a 13-0 run and a 41-21 lead with 11:51 to go, and the Diggers’ never threatened again.
“We played well tonight, on both ends,” Huse said. “I thought we played a very complete offensive game, and we were very patient with what they do on defense. They didn’t pull as many tricks out of their hat as they did the first time we played them, but the things they did run, we adjusted well to, and we just played very well. It was just a really complete game by our kids.”
And it was another big win for a Lights’ team who came into this season with no returning starters and just one roster player from a year ago. And Tech is dangerous, as the Orediggers are the only team to sweep Westminster College this year. But the Lights were again composed on Saturday night, and they got a game-high 18 points from Myers, who hit five of Northern’s 11 three’s. Simpson had another good outing, scoring 11 points and going 5-for-six from the field, while Shaun Tatarka hit three trey’s and Devin Jackson added eight rebounds.
The Lights (7-3, 18-7) now have just four conference games left, but they are against four bitter rivals. This weekend, Northern visits Rocky Mountain College on Thursday night and Carroll College on Saturday.