Northern women venture to Salt Lake City
Last weekend's losses to a pair of NCAA Division II teams in Bellingham, Wash., didn't count towards the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team's overall record.
But they counted for plenty, and while the exhibition games won't show up on Northern's record, the Skylights haven't won a basketball game since they beat Dickinson State 59-50 back on Nov. 5 in Havre.
That's something the Skylights (3-5) and head coach Chris Mouat are hoping to change this weekend when they play a pair of games at the Westminster Tournament in Salt Lake City. But turning things around won't be easy, especially today when Northern takes on The Master's College at 3:30 p.m. The Skylights wrap up tournament play against William Jessup College Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
"Two very tough games ahead of us," Mouat said. "But this is why we play the schedule we do. We want to be challenged. We want these games to make us a better team. But at the same time, we want wins, we need wins, and that's what we're going down there to do. Hopefully came away with two wins."
Northern has seen The Master's before. The two teams squared off in the Round of 16 of the NAIA national tournament back in 2006, a game the Skylights lost at the end. And while Mouat said the Mustangs aren't quite the powerhouse they were back then (They went to the Final Four in 06'), he still expects them to be a handful today.
"They (Mustangs) are very talented, and they probably have one of the best point guards in the country," Mouat said. "And they brought in a really good, 6-1 transfer in the post. They have a lot of quickness, they can shoot and they can play inside. So they do it all very well, and it's going to be a big test for us."
But the Skylights have been tested already. Last week, Northern held Western Washington to a season-low 56 points. Western is a favorite to compete for a DII title this season and had the University of Washington on the ropes just a week before the Skylights played in Bellingham. So defensively, Northern is certainly putting the clamps down on teams.
Offensively, the Skylights are getting 16 points per game from Taylor Keller and 14 points from Samm Schermele, while Monica Hollowell, Laramie Schwenke and Jordan Bruursema are also scoring for MSU-N. But to compete with high-level teams, MSU-N must get more production in the paint and be a more balanced team inside and out. That's why the Skylights took 6-1 freshman Michaela Howe-Cobb off red shirt status last weekend, only to see her go down with a knee injury that will sideline her for 4-6 weeks.
"We decided to play her and we turned her loose last weekend," Mouat said of Howe-Cobb. "And she was doing really well, but unfortunately, she got injured and will be out for some time. But she gives us a lift when she's in there and we'll be looking forward to getting her back."
Today's game against the Mustangs will be a tough test for MSU-N, and while Northern has beaten William Jessup before, Mouat said his team can't afford to overlook Saturday's matchup.
"William Jessup has been kind of one of those teams over the years that's had trouble winning," Mouat said. But this season they look very good and they've played a tough schedule and been close in a lot of games. So they certainly won't be a pushover for us.
"This has been a tough stretch for us," he added. "But our effort has been very good. I believe we are getting better. I've seen us improve a lot over the last few weeks and hopefully this weekend we can turn a corner and get some wins."
The Skylights will follow their two games this weekend in Salt Lake City with a nonconference game against the University of Great Falls on Thursday night in Havre.