A second road trip down, an even longer one up. That’s what the Montana State University-Northern men’s basketball team is facing this weekend.
Tonight at 7, the No. 15 Lights begin three-game stretch in Oregon against tough opponents. The Lights face Portland Bible College tonight, New Hope Christian on Friday night in Eugene and then return to Portland for a rematch with Warner Pacific on Saturday night.
MSU-N is coming off a 2-0 appearance at the UM-Western Tournament last weekend in Dillon. Northern edged Dickinson State on Friday and survived a scare from Warner/Pacific on Saturday night.
“We continue our challenging road swing with three games in three days on nonconference opponents' home floors,” MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said . “It does not get any easier given the challenges that go with road trips, but we just need to stay the course and continue to gain experience as we go.”
Tonight, the Lights square off against the Wildkats of Portland Bible College. The school added basketball just four years ago, but already the team has won a conference championship and a Western Region title in the NCCAA.
Things don’t get any easier on Saturday when the Lights travel to Eugene to face New Hope Christian. The Deacons also play in the NCCAA and will present Northern with a good challenge. The Deacons annually many of the top teams from the NAIA’s Cascade Conference.
And speaking of the Cascade league, Saturday night will be Northern’s toughest test of the weekend. The Lights beat Warner/Pacific 61-60 last weekend in Dillon, and just the day before, the Knights soundly took care of UM-Western. Now Northern has the unenviable task of facing the Knights on their home floor. Warner/Pacific reached the second round of the NAIA DII national tournament a year ago.
“We face a team (Portland Bible College) with almost all of their returners back, a team (New Hope) with a scoring threat as good as you'll find on any level, and Warner Pacific, and we all know what their potential is after our one-point game in Dillon Saturday,” Huse said. “And watching their decisive victory over Western, one of the best teams in our league, the night before. I guess the moral of the story is we need to continue our defensive efforts if we wish to have success in their gyms. Shooting extremely well would help of course, but we never want to rely on that, especially in unfamiliar confines.”
The Lights will return home from their three-game road trip in Oregon, only to head west again next weekend. Northern has a pair of tough road games next weekend at the Lewis-Clark State Tournament in Lewiston, Idaho.