By Jason Shoot
BILLINGS The Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team will finally end its long hiatus when it squares off against Western Montana at 6 p.m. tonight in the Rocky Mountain College Tip-Off Classic.
The Lights will then take on host Rocky Mountain College on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Northern last played December 2 in Klamath Falls, Ore., in the Oregon Tech Tournament. The Lights defeated Cal State-Hayward 110-108 in a double-overtime win.
The Lights had been scheduled to play a pair of games against Brandon University December 8-9, but inclement weather forced the Canadian school to cancel its trip.
Northern averages 87.5 points per game, which ranks fourth among all NAIA Region 1 schools. But the long break may act much like sugar in the gas tank of a high-powered engine.
Junior forward David Sawyer has provided the Lights with a spark at both ends of the floor.
The 6-foot-6 junior forward has made 63.5 percent of his shots from the field this season and is 10th in the region with 7.1 rebounds per contest. He is also second in the region in blocked shots, averaging 1.82 rejections a game.
Northern is sixth in the region in assists (15.64 per game) led by K.C. Moultrie, who is seventh in the region with just over four assists a game.
The Lights are fourth in Region 1 in turnover margin, forcing 14.5 turnovers a game while just committing 12.
Northern benefits from the schedule by avoiding Montana Tech. The Orediggers have played just two games this season, but the scoring margin in the two victories averaged 26.6 points.
Western Montana (6-4) averages a potent 82.8 points per game and is the top team in steals in Region 1 with 10.4 thefts per contest.
Rocky Mountain College (1-6) is off to a slow start, and much of the lack of success can be attributed to the Bears' rebounding woes. Rocky Mountain is 19th in Region 1 in offensive rebounding and 16th in the region in defensive rebounding.