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Lights face tough Southern Utah squad

 

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Forgive Shawn Huse if he feels like he's walking into an ambush. But all the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball coach has to do is look at the Southern Utah schedule and see that his team could be heading into a dangerous situation when it faces the Thunderbirds tonight in Cedar City, Utah.

Southern Utah, which competes at the NCAA Division I level, is 2-3 on the season. The Thunderbirds have played a brutal schedule thus far this season with losses coming to the University of Utah, Washington State and a disappointing 73-71 loss to Boise State on Saturday night. That loss snapped a two-game win streak for the Thunderbirds, who defeated Sacramento State and Long Beach State in the past two weeks.

"They've had a pretty rough schedule so far," Huse said. "They're going to be very hungry for a win."

As if playing a Division I school isn't tough, playing one in need of a win is even tougher.

"The size, strength and quickness is so much greater at the Division I level," Huse said. "We have to adjust to that."

Besides the bigger bodies, Southern Utah plays an aggressive, attacking zone defense that causes teams problems. The alignment is a standard 2-3 look. However the T-Birds look to trap out of it and extend teams well behind the three-point line.

Teams that see it for the first time have been known to struggle. Huse admitted that his team couldn't simulate the aggressiveness with which Southern Utah plays the zone in practice. However, he does believe his players can score against it by attacking it.

"When teams put that type of pressure on, you have to attack and make some quick shots," Huse said. "Because if you don't attack, they will re-press you all over again."

Northern faced zone defense against Dickinson State and Minot State, but those games were nothing like it will see tonight.

"It's going to come down to making shots," Huse said. "We have to make the open shots we get."

Offensively, Southern Utah averages 67.4 points per game while shooting at a 47 percent rate. The T-Birds have three players Al Williams, David Palmer and Jay Collins averaging 11 points per game.

Williams, a junior college transfer, comes off the bench and plays either guard or forward. At 6-7, Palmer will definitely cause some size problems inside and averages five rebounds a game. Collins is a deadly outside shooter and leads the team in three-point shooting.

As a team, SUU has five players taller than 6-7, which should give Northern some problems.

"We have to keep them off the boards," Huse said. "We have to box out on every shot."

Northern, which received 18 votes in this week's NAIA top 25, will counter with its usual lineup. Larry Morinia is averaging 20.8 points per game for the Lights while Charlie Ereaux is averaging 7.3 rebounds per game.

Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Southern Utah's Centrum Center.

 
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