By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The MSU-Northern Skylights handled them once and they look to handle them again.
The Skylights (3-4) will face the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, a team they have beat twice already this season, at home this weekend.
"Lethbridge comes at a good time," head coach Ray Peters said. "Lethbridge is a team we are able to handle."
In the opening weekend of play, Northern won the two matchups at Canada, 82-48 and 78-39.
In the last matchup, Lethbridge extended the floor defensively and used a full-court trap, sometimes setting between three and four traps up the court, against the Skylights.
"We obviously have to be ready for Lethbridge's pressure," Peters said. "There is a total commitment on their part to play the passing lanes and to trap the ball."
However for the 43 steals Lethbridge managed, they turned the ball over 68 times in two games more than one month ago.
Five-foot-10 junior Sheryl Webster and freshman Kirsten Davies led the offensive effort during those two games. Davies scored a team-high 13 points in the opening night of action Oct. 22, while Webster tallied a team-high 11 points and notched seven rebounds the following night.
"We did a nice job when we played them up there of handling that pressure and also of finishing," Peters said. "With their defense, it really feeds their offense. If you convert against their defense, they can't come out and run as much. "
Freshman Jana Smith led the Skylights' offensive effort, scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively. She went 7-for-7 from the field during the second night of play.
Smith is the leading Skylights' offensive point-getter, averaging 12.7 points per game. She also leads the team in assists with 23 accumulated so far this season.
Junior Brianne Dunn, who has been playing limited minutes due to an injury, joined Smith in double figures in the last matchup.
Dunn scored 13 and 15 points, respectively, including shooting 12-of-14 from the field during the course of the two games.
"I think that we're getting healthier," Peters said. "We were able to keep Bri out and didn't play her big minutes in Fresno."
The Skylights split wins last weekend at Fresno, Calif., downing the Biola Eagles 79-72, then falling to the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds 69-60.
The Skylights' inside game has developed since the last time they met the Pronghorns. While senior power Melissa Metz rejoins the Lethbridge lineup, junior Kelsy Burgmaier and Lynn Kansteiner and sophomore Laura Munson have become strong at the post for Northern.
"We need to continue to establish our presence in the post," Peters said.
Burgmaier, at 6-foot, notched 18 points against Biola last weekend, shooting 9-for-15 from the field. She also snatched a team-high nine rebounds in the contest. She leads the Skylights, averaging 5.71 rebounds per game.
Munson tallied 16 points against Fresno last weekend. She averages 4.43 boards per game, and leads the Skylights, shooting 61.8 percent from the field.
Six-foot Kansteiner, who has played the fewest minutes of all three, has gone 10-for-25, good for 40 percent, from the field for Northern.
"As we continue to establish our inside game, that will take a lot of pressure off our perimeter players," Peters said. "In our first four games or so, we relied so much on our perimeter scoring. I feel that started to affect us a little bit. We are beginning to be a much more balanced team."
Senior Kristine Noel has stepped into a floor-leader role for the Skylights. Noel reached double figures with 12 points against Biola and tallied a team-high 20 points against Fresno.
Noel averages 55 percent from the field, 75 percent from 3-point land, and leads the Skylights from the free throw line, averaging 93.8 percent, during the course of seven games.
Anna Fabatz, who has stepped into a starting role at times for Northern, has proven herself to be impressive at the forward position. Junior Abby Hjorth has also stepped into action and played strong for Northern.
"If we continue to play like we did last weekend, we will make great strides in the month of December," Peters said.
Tip-off Friday is slated for 7 p.m., while the Skylights will play at 4 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be played at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.