By Kim Staudinger
The Montana State University-Northern Skylights accomplished something Thursday night that they had been unable to do for nearly three weeks they won a game.
After winning their first two conference matchups, the Skylights hit a three-game skid, dropping games against the University of Great Falls, Montana Tech and Western Montana College.
On Thursday, the Skylights came out ready to play and never let up on with stern defensive pressure en route to a 71-48 win over Carroll College.
Northern coach Kevin Emerick said earlier in the week that a key to the game would be stopping standout guard Jennifer Curl. The Skylights (16-5, 3-3) not only held the Big Sandy native to just five points, but held the starters to 33 points. The leading scorer for the Saints, forward Jennifer Driscoll, collected 10 points. She was the only Carroll player to reach double digits.
"I thought we did a great job on (Curl)," Emerick said. "We located her well and read (where she was going). Tamecia did a nice job stopping her."
Though visitors, Carroll (12-11, 4-3) boasted a large crowd of supporters, many of them from surrounding areas who came to watch former Hi-Line players Curl and Charla Ray, both juniors, from Big Sandy and Chester's Carly VanDyke, a junior. The trio combined for 20 points and nine rebounds.
Northern's Paula Owens, who also had a double-double last weekend, finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds 14 of them defensive to spark the Skylights despite the Carroll fan base.
"As the game went on, we kept playing better," Emerick said. "It was a great intense effort by everybody, all nine players."
And finally, it wasn't the Skylights who struggled offensively. Northern shot 56.8 percent from the field in the game and 46.2 percent from three-point range. Meanwhile, Carroll shot just 28.8 percent from the field and 29.4 from beyond the arch.
"They didn't shoot the ball well, but I think we had something to do with that," Emerick said. "I thought we did a great job locating their shooters. We had better defensive pressure than we've had for a month. We never let down defensively even though they weren't making their shots."
Along with the resilient play of Owens, credit also is owed to Miranda Weiser, who played with a high fever. With point guard Jenny Balgua in foul trouble, Weiser played nearly the entire game and compiled a game-high five assists, one more than the entire Carroll team.
"Miranda played great," Emerick said. "It was a real gutsy effort."
The Skylights sprinted to a 7-0 lead early, but allowed the Saints to come back briefly to cut the lead to 9-7. With only seven minutes remaining in the first half, it was as close as Carroll would get to the Skylights.
Even scoring throughout the first guided MSU-N to a 30-18 halftime lead. In the second half, the Skylights further distanced themselves from Carroll by converting 73.7 percent of their field goal attempts (14-of-19), racing to the 23-point win.
Complementing Owens and Weiser (11 points), senior guard Tamecia Watkins tallied 10 points and four rebounds. Northern also dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Saints 37-28 30-17 on the defensive end.
The Skylights are at home on Saturday against Rocky Mountain College, hoping to start a new streak with their second straight victory.
Carroll Megan Goodheart 4, Jennifer Driscoll 10, Melissa Maloy 2, Danielle Zelinski 8, Nikki McElligott 3, Jennifer Curl 5, Carly VanDyke 7, Charla Ray 8, Erica Pribyl 1.
Northern Miranda Weiser 11, Angee Thomas 9, Tamecia Watkins 10, Jenny Balgua 4, Nichole Neill 6, Amanda Walter 3, Brettney Vermandel 1, Sarah Gaugler 4, Paula Owens 23.