It’s back to work for both Montana State University-Northern basketball teams this weekend. And both MSU-N squads will be involved in key nonconference games.
The 24th-ranked Northern Lights travel to Phoenix for a pair of games in the Arizona Christian Tournament, while the Skylights visit Great Falls for two games in a preseason event hosted by UGF.
The Skylights (4-0) are coming off a pair of exhibition games last week. Northern played the University of Wyoming down to the wire last Thursday night in Sheridan, Wyo., but the road-weary squad was drubbed by the Montana Lady Griz Sunday in Missoula. Now, MSU-N turns its attention back to games that count. Friday, MSU-N faces Pacific Union at 2 p.m. and Saturday the Skylights battle NCAA DII Nebraska-Kearney at 3 p.m.
“This weekend is going to present a lot of challenges for our team,” Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. “We play two very different types of teams and are going to have to be on our toes defensively and continue to work to win on the boards both nights. And, we’ll need to execute on offense. We shot the ball much better last weekend from the three, and were solid from the free-throw-line on the weekend. We just have to keep making forward progress.”
In their unbeaten start, the Skylights are getting a balanced attack offensively, while playing well on the defensive end. Junior A’Jha Edwards leads MSU-N at 12 points and eight rebounds per game, while Taylor Cummings, Kassie Barta and Rachelle Bennett average between nine and seven points per contest.
Meanwhile, the Lights are back in action for the first time in two weeks. MSU-N is 6-0 heading into Friday night’s matchup with NCAA DII New Mexico Highlands. Northern also plays NAIA No. 16 Arizona Christian Saturday night in a big matchup.
Northern last played Nov. 1 when the Lights blew out NCAA DII Montana State-Billings in Havre, so head coach Shawn Huse is looking forward to his team getting back on the floor.
“These will be two very challenging games away from home,” Huse said. “New Mexico Highlands is a solid team from a good conference and Arizona Christian is a team who went to the national tournament last year and we’re playing them on their home floor. So it’s going to be a really good test for our team this weekend.”
Senior Alfie Miller is leading Northern in scoring at 16 points per game, while junior Corbin Pearson averages 10 points and five boards per outing. Nick Blount is giving MSU-N nine points a night off the bench, while senior Will Perry averages eight and leads the Lights with six rebounds per game.
The Skylights will play both of their games this weekend at Paris Gibson Middle School in Great Falls. MSU-N plays Pacific Union at 2 p.m. Friday and Nebraska-Kearney at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Lights face New Mexico Highlands at 5:30 p.m. Friday night and Arizona Christian at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Phoenix.