Havre Daily News - News you can use

Lights face rivals UGF, Carroll

 

February 16, 2017

Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Badhasa Margarsa drives past a UGF defender last month in Havre. The Lights travel to Great Falls tonight for a game against the Argos, and take a trip to Helena Saturday night to face Carroll College. These are Northern's last two road games of the regular season.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights have been excellent on the road this season. But in their final two road games in Frontier Conference play, the Lights are going back to two gyms that weren't so kind to them last month.

Northern (8-6, 19-7) has lost just three road games in conference play, but two of those came in Great Falls and Helena, the two cities the Lights visit on their final road trip of the regular season. Northern plays at UGF tonight and at No. 8 Carroll College Saturday night, to finish up its six-game road swing.

And the Lights are hoping the momentum they built over their last four road games, where they went 3-1, losing only a close game at Lewis-Clark State last Thursday, will help them this weekend. Northern will also draw on its stingy defense, which allows just 59 points per game, and is No. 1 in the NAIA, to succeed in two hostile environments. Offensively, the Lights have been very efficient in their last four games, shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the 3-point-line.

The Lights are getting 11 points per game from David Straughter and 10 from Ryan Reeves, but in recent weeks, they've also been getting great production from senior Tyler Chandler, and juniors Dylan Tatarka and Cameron Epps.

And Northern will need that great defense and good production to get through these last two road games.

Tonight's game against the Argos (3-11, 11-14) is a rubber match. UGF beat the Lights in Great Falls in early January, while Northern won in Havre three weeks ago. Now comes an important test for the Lights, but the game is also huge for the Argos, who are led by Connor Brooks-McGregor, Sergio Berkley and Isaac Howard. UGF is trying to secure the final berth in the upcoming Frontier playoffs, so the Argos will be hungry against their biggest rival tonight.

"UGF is very capable of knocking down shots and getting after it on defense," MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. "We know we have to continue playing good road basketball if we are going to have success down there."

Northern must also find something extra special if it's going to be successful Saturday night against the Fighting Saints (11-3, 21-5). Carroll has lost two straight coming into its game at UGF Friday night, but the Fighting Saints have beaten the Lights by double digits in their previous two meetings.

"Carroll has a great deal of weapons capable of scoring in various ways," Huse said. "Despite our solid defensive efforts against them, our inability to score consistently against their solid defense proved to be our downfall in the first go-rounds. We need to execute a little better and knock down the shots when open."

While the Lights need to shoot better against the Saints, they also have to defend at an even higher level than they normally do because, like Huse said, Carroll is loaded. The Saints have two players who can absolutely fill it in seniors Ryan Imhoff and Zach Taylor, while Matt Wyman and Match Burnham are great as well, and forward Oliver Carr has been a beast in the paint. Carroll always brings a strong bench as well, and simply, the Saints are an offensive juggernaut.

However, Northern likes its chances in a third meeting with the Saints. It's always hard to beat the same team three times, and going into this week's last road, Northern really seems to be hitting its stride.

Tonight's game between Northern and UGF tips at 7:30 in Great Falls. Saturday's game at Carroll also tips at 7:30 p.m. The Lights return home to wrap up the regular season next Friday against UM-Western and Saturday against Rocky Mountain College.

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