Last weekend was a big one for the Montana State University-Northern women’s basketball. And before the Skylights won at Lewis-Clark State for the first time in 16 years, they started the weekend off with an exciting win at the University of Great Falls.
MSU-N came back from an early 12-point deficit to beat the Argos 63-60 last Thursday night, and now the two bitter rivals will go at it again. Tonight, Northern (5-4, 13-8) takes on UGF (1-8, 11-12) at 6 inside the Armory Gymnasium.
And while MSU-N was riding high after two impressive road wins a week ago, Northern head coach Chris Mouat is fully aware that tonight is new and the Argos are a dangerous team, hungry for a win.
“It was a great game down there,” Mouat said. “I was disappointed in some of the things we did in the first half, but I thought we cleaned those things up and played a great second half.
“But this is another new week and UGF is a team you can’t fall asleep on for 40 minutes,” he continued. “They are explosive, they have a lot of talent and they have size. They can score a lot of points in a hurry and they have a ton of kids who can hurt you in different ways. And when they catch fire, like they did against us in the first half last week, they can really light up the scoreboard. So we’re going to have to do a much better job on defense and on the boards than we did down there last week.”
UGF is a team which can hurt the Skylights inside with 6-3 center Kindra Jones and 6-2 post Lyndsay Abramson. The UGF duo is 1-2 in the Frontier Conference in rebounding, while they both average 11 points per game. But what makes the Argos even more dangerous, and what makes it hard to fathom that they are on an eight-game losing streak, is their young guards, led by 5-5 freshman Erin Legel. She scored 23 points against the Skylights last Thursday night and is averaging 13 points per game, which is impressive for a true freshman. She is also surrounded by talented shooters like 5-8 freshman Taylor Statten and 5-2 frosh Darah Huertes-Vining, as well as sharp-shooting sophomore Sydnee Burke.
“UGF is young, talented and fearless, especially on the perimeter,” Mouat said. “We have to do a better job of making things difficult for (Erin) Legel. She really burned us last week, and we have to try and do a better job of containing her because she does so many things well. But that’s what makes them so dangerous. They have a lot of really young, talented weapons and they can all score when they get going. So we’re really focused on being better on the defensive end against them.”
The Skylights would also like to get off to a better start tonight, more like they did in last Saturday’s 60-50 win at LC State where they led 36-13 at halftime. Against the Argos, Northern trailed by 12 points midway through the first half, before freshman Kacie McKeon, and sophomore Rachelle Bennett came in and spurred Northern on an 18-2 run.
And McKeon and Bennett are part of a steadily improving Skylight bench. Together, they are averaging 13 points per game, while Maurisha McKissic averages five points and five rebounds per night. Nikki Tresch continues to lead the Skylights in scoring, as she puts in 14 points per game and is leading the Frontier in the 3-point shooting at just over 45 percent. Senior Jordan Bruursema has also been coming on strong. She averages 11 points and six rebounds per game, and has three double-double’s in her last five outings.
“I think we’re getting better all the way around,” Mouat said. “I was really proud of what we accomplished last weekend, winning two really tough games on the road. And obviously, with some injuries and kids being sick, what we were able to do at LC State was really special and I’m really proud of the way the kids have been battling and fighting and continuing to get better.”
While the Skylights continue to move forward, tonight’s game is another big one for Northern. The Skylights are in a tie with Montana Tech for third in the conference, while they have just a one-game lead on both Rocky Mountain College and UM-Western. And it’s critical for Northern to hold serve at home, as the Skylights play four of their final six regular season games on the road.
So tonight’s rivalry rematch with UGF is another hurdle for Northern to climb.
“They are dangerous,” Mouat said of the Argos. “They are going to come in here wanting a win badly and with how much talent they have, that makes them very dangerous. And we are hungry too. We want to keep moving forward and continue to put ourselves in the best position we can be in at the end of the season. So that makes every game an important one, because every win and every loss is big. So this game is another big one for us.”
Tonight’s rivalry game between Northern and UGF tips off at 6 at the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights travel to Tech and Carroll College next weekend.
Skylights (5-4, 13-8) vs Great Falls (1-8, 11-12) tonight at 6 p.m. in the Armory Gymnasium
Radio: 92.5 KPQX FM
MSU-N Probable Starters
G Nikki Tresch, 5-5, Sr.
G Taylor Cummings, 5-5, So.
G Kylee Denham, 5-7, Sr.
F Jordan Bruursema, 6-0, Sr.
F Laci Keller, 6-0, Jr.