Lights, Skylights still on the road
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George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor [email protected]
Just one week ago, the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team suffered a difficult loss to the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers in Butte. Tonight in Lewiston, Idaho, the Lights (3-3) will get a chance to atone for that loss. MSU-N is in Idaho for a holiday tournament hosted by Frontier Conference rival Lewis-Clark State. Northern will not only face the Mountaineers tonight, but the Lights will also play Evergreen State College on Saturday night. "Ultimately it's two more good opportunities to play on the floor of a conference opponent," MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. "Playing at LC-State helps our new guys gain a feeling for their gym and arena. "We, of course, want to have success versus both very good teams as well, but know this is all just making us better for the conference season," he added. "Both opponents are well-equipped at every position so our non-conference schedule continues to pose excellent challenges for our new group." Northern comes into tonight's game having lost to EOU 64-57 last Friday night in Butte. Last Saturday, the Lights walloped Walla Walla College 96-58. In both games, MSU-N seniors Andrew Sellars and Clay Greenland played well on both ends of the floor. Sellars averaged 20 points and five rebounds per game for the Lights last weekend. Junior point guard Eric Tisby also scored 10 points in each of Northern's two games last weekend. And the Lights will need more of the same this weekend in Idaho. "We need to execute better on both ends of the floor if we're going to get EOU this time," Huse said. "We did what we needed for the first 32 minutes of the game in Butte but had some lapses that prevented the win. This go around we need to play well for 40, as we saw EOU is very much a team, like most teams at this level, that fights hard, plays well together and never packs it in. We have to keep our focus throughout the whole game and concentrate on being more solid this goround. "Things truly get no easier on Saturday," he added. "Evergreen is very big and athletic at every position. They are all very dangerous but we'll need to find a way to slow down their point guard first. One needs to look no further than the stats to see what a big threat he is (32.4 ppg, 57 points versus Puget Sound just 3 games ago). He has the capability to score from anywhere on the floor, and gets them in bunches." This weekend's road trip won't be any easier for the MSU-N women. The Skylights (1-5) are in Olympia, Wash., for games against Northwest University tonight and Evergreen State on Saturday. Northern comes into this weekend's trip having lost back-to-back tough games against nationally-ranked Vanguard University and Southern Oregon University last weekend in Great Falls. "Northwest and Evergreen have both won some big games already this season," Skylights head coach Chris Mouat said. "They are much improved and will be very competitive in the Cascade Conference. These games are basically home games for both teams, and we'll do all that we can to ensure that we handle the long travel well. "Northwest brings a lot to the table," he added. "They have one extremely explosive player in guard Jessica Wilkerson. She scored 30 for them in their last game and is very aggressive offensively. We need to do a good job on her, but also need to understand that they have a lot of solid players around her. They are one of the better defensive teams in NAIA Division II and are one of the top defensive rebounding teams in the country. They will mix it up defensively and have shown the ability to score a lot of points. Evergreen is led by their point guard Latrina Woods. She really makes them go. She can score but is every bit as good at setting her teammates up for good shots. As a team, they are very athletic and have a lot of players that can hurt us. Their wings shoot the ball well from the perimeter, and their posts play extremely hard." Despite having just one win heading into tonight's game, the Skylights are playing well. They have just been up against a brutal nonconference schedule to start the season. MSUN, as expected, is getting outstanding production from guards Taylor Keller and Samm Schermele, but it's been the play of senior Zivile Gaizutyte and sophomore Laramie Schwenke which has made Northern a club to reckoned with. Gaizutyte has four double-doubles so far this year and averages 10 points and nine rebounds per game. Schwenke has also played well as both a backup point guard and a shooting guard and has been one of the Skylight's most consistent defenders. Northern is also starting to get healthy, and Mouat is hoping all of that translates to some road success this weekend. "We are heading into the weekend with an understanding that we have played very good teams, and we have played very well at times in every game," Mouat said. "Our schedule has been tough. But, playing close with good teams is not enough and our kids understand that. We simply need to do a better job of taking care of the little things and finish games. Playing a full 40 minutes is something that we're really focusing on. We have had all of our players healthy and available for the first time in over three weeks, and we've had a good week of practice. We are looking forward to the challenges that both Northwest and Evergreen will bring." Both the Lights and Skylights will not only be on the road through this weekend, but for the remainder of the month. The Skylights don't play at home again until Dec. 18 while the Lights next home game is set for Dec. 21.