Lights brace for DAC foes
It's early in the season, but the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team is already battle tested.
And the Lights are about to get another exam.
Fresh off a road split against Dakota Athletic Conference powers Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines last weekend in Spearfish, S.D., the Lights (2-1) will host another pair of DAC rivals in Dickinson State and Minot State this weekend. the Lights play the Blue Hawks in a special matinee today at 3 p.m., then host the Beavers Saturday at 7 p.m.
"Dickinson uses a great deal of motion to get loose for their shots at the three-point-line, as well as in the paint. They are a scrappy defensive team that will play very hard on every possession to disrupt what we want to do offensively," MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said of today's game against the Blue Hawks.
Northern and DSU have along-standing nonconference tradition and the Lights and Blue Hawks will carry that into today's game.
DSU (2-2) has played all Frontier Conference opponents so far this season, having lost to Carroll College by two points and UM-Western by 11. The Blue Hawks beat Montana Tech last weekend.
The Blue Hawks are a young team this season, but still a dangerous one with sharp-shooting guard Nate Lebsock of Frenchtown. Lebsock is a three-year starter and comes into today's game averaging 21 points per outing. Freshman John Hansted and Matt Lee (6-6) also average double figures for the Blue Hawks.
The Lights will counter DSU's young, but talented lineup with a squad already coming together.
Last week, the new-look Lights went on the road and played two great games, losing to nationally-ranked Black Hills before beating South Dakota Mines in a pair of nip-and-tuck games. The Lights are balanced on offense with LaVon Myers, Joe Simpson, Shaun Tatarka and Devin Jackson all hovering around 10 points per game, while Simpson and Chris Brown have been big factors on defense and on the glass so far this season.
And Northern will need to balanced on Saturday when Minot State (0-2) comes calling.
The Beavers are on their way up to NCAA Division II, but they'll no doubt be looking to keep their winning streak against the Lights alive on Saturday. MSU swept Northern a year ago.
"Minot is a very talented team with several weapons. Their perimeter players can shoot it from anywhere as well as attack the heart of your defense," Huse said. "Their bigs work diligently to score inside and go to the boards very hard. They are athletic and really defend well with their quickness and hustle."
Minot is indeed a veteran team led by a pair of familiar faces in guards Nate Packinaeu and Bojan Janjic. But the addition of 7-0 Milos Jerotelvic gives Minot State a big low-post presence against an undersized MSU-N squad.
And while it's early and these are only nonconference games, they are important ones considering Northern goes to Las Vegas next weekend to face a pair of NAIA giants in Robert Morris and Vanguard University, and the Lights don't play at home again until Dec. 21.
Today's game between the Lights and Blue Hawks tips off at 3 p.m. at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. The Lights also host Minot State Saturday at 7 p.m.