It’s bounce back time for the Montana State University-Northern basketball team. But rebounding from two tough losses last weekend in Arizona won’t be easy because the Lights are right back on the road.
Tonight, Northern is in Billings for a rematch with NCAA Division II Montana State-Billings. The game will be an exhibition for the No. 24 Lights (6-2), but will count for the Yellowjackets. MSU-N then travels to Jamestown, N.D., for a Sunday afternoon showdown with the NAIA DII powerhouse Jamestown Jimmies.
“This is another important weekend for us,” MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. “We’re playing two very good teams on the road, so we look at it as another opportunity for us to learn, to get better and to get ready for what we’ll see next week against Carroll and the rest of our non-conference schedule.”
Tonight’s game at MSU-B will be interesting, considering the Lights crushed the Yellowjackets 71-50 back on Nov. 1 in the Armory Gymnasium. The game didn’t count for MSU-B that night, but tonight’s rematch will, so the Yellowjackets will certainly be out to play much better than they did in Havre, which was their first trip to the Armory since 1996.
“It’s not ideal for us to play an exhibition game at this point in the season,” Huse said. “But that’s what we had to do in order to get them up here. It’s a counter game for them too, so I expect they’ll be ready for us. They’ll be excited to get us in their gym, and I know they’ll play well. They are a very well-coached, very talented team. But it’s another opportunity for us to play a DII program, and we’ll go in there and give it everything we’ve got.”
Northern is looking to rebound tonight from losses to NCAA DII New Mexico Highlands and NAIA power Arizona Christian last weekend in Phoenix. In both games, the Lights were close, but saw both teams pull away down the stretch. MSU-N also lost senior forward Will Perry to an injury early last Friday, and he’ll miss both road games this weekend.
That means, the likes of Pat Jensen and Xavier Blunt will have to help pick up the slack, while the Lights will look to be led by guards Alfie Miller, Roshawn West and Allan Brown, and top forwards Corbin Pearson and Jesse Vaughan on the inside.
And while tonight’s game won’t affect Northern’s record, Sunday’s trip to Jamestown will likely be a barnburner. The Jimmies have struggled out of the gate, going 4-7 so far, but they are essentially the same team which gave Northern two terrific battles last November in Havre. The Lights beat the Jimmies 55-54 and 68-66 last season, and with star guard Mark Hoge (6-5) averaging around 27 points per game so far this season, Huse expects nothing less than another close battle I what has become an outstanding non-conference rivalry.
“We had two nail-biters with them (Jimmies) last season, and they have most of their top guys back,” Huse said. “Hoge is an outstanding player who can score from anywhere, but they have a lot of talent around him. They always play very well at home, so this is going to be another tremendous test for our team.”
Tonight’s road game at MSU-Billings will tip off at 7 p.m. The Lights and Jimmies will meet at 3 p.m. Sunday in Jamestown, N.D. The Lights open Frontier Conference play next Saturday against Carroll College in Havre.