It’s still very early in the basketball season, but both the Montana State University-Northern Lights and Skylights are expecting big challenges when they head north of the border this weekend.
The 1-0 Lights play two games against CIS powers in Saskatchewan this weekend, while the 1-0 Skylights play three tough games at the Mount Royal Tournament in Calgary, Alberta.
The Northern men opened the season with an easy 91-28 win over King’s University last Saturday in Havre. Northern got double-figures scoring from Shaun Tatarka, Devin Jackson and LaVon Myers in the season-opening win.
But veteran MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse is expecting a pair of tough battles on the road this weekend. The Lights plat at the University of Regina Friday night and then travel to Saskatoon for a bought with the University of Saskatchewan on Saturday afternoon.
“It really is going to be tough,” Huse said. “These are by no means easy games against Canadian teams. These are games against two of the upper-level teams in the CIS, the highest level of basketball in Canada. These are teams we’ve been beaten by in the past and played a lot of close games against. So we know we have our hands full this weekend.”
The Lights last played Regina a year ago in Havre. It was a close win for Northern. In 2007, MSU-N also hosted the Saskatchewan Huskies and had to go to overtime before winning. So Huse is very familiar with the opponents.
“They are actually very similar to each other,” Huse said. “They are both very tall and height is the one thing we don’t have a lot of. They have very skilled big men, they run well in transition, and both teams have some of the top players in the CIS. So it’s going to be a very challenging two road games for our team.”
The Skylights are also going up to Canada to face stiff competition.
Northern opens with the University of Lethbridge on Friday night, then plays Mount Royal on Saturday night and the University of British Columbia-Okanagen on Sunday afternoon. And if three tough games weren’t enough, the Skylights will also be without starting senior point guard Laramie Schwenke, who went down with a knee injury in last Saturday’s win over King’s. Schwenke’s return isn’t known yet.
“Our first two games up there will be really tough,” Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. “Lethbridge is a very good CIS team and they return some really good players from last year’s team. We’ve seen Mount Royal on film and they are also very good. Those two games are legitimately big tests for our team. Then you factor in the different rules, it’s our first time on the road and things like that, and it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“But these are also good challenges for our team,” he added. “We played well last Saturday and these games, stepping up in competition will certainly help us build on that. And that’s what we want to do right now, just keep getting better.”
The Lights don't play back in havre until early December. The Skylights return to have to face Lethbridge on Oct. 26.