MSU-Northern Basketball Notebook
For whatever reason, the Montana State University-Northern Lights just seem to have Carroll College's number in Havre.
Following Friday night's 73-54 beat down of the Saints in Havre, the Lights have now topped Carroll six straight times at home. It's a rivalry that has seen both dramatic finishes and blowout victories, as Northern won a stretch of home games against the Saints by four points or less from 200-2009. The last two years, the Lights have sent the Saints packing early.
But regardless of the final score, one thing that has been consistent through all of Northern's wins over Carroll has been the energy inside the old Armory Gymnasium. And the "crowd" factor is not lost on Northern head coach Shawn Huse, who was excited to see such a large turnout again on Friday night.
"You can't say enough about the support we got from our fans against Carroll, really both nights it was awesome," Huse said. "But when it gets rocking in our building, like it did on Friday night, there's no better place to play, no better atmosphere in the Frontier Conference in my opinion. And that atmosphere, the crowd's energy on Friday night, our guys really fed off that and we appreciate the support tremendously."
For both MSU-N's games against Carroll and Rocky Mountain College this weekend, the attendance was the biggest of the entire season, and Northern still has five home games left this year.
Montana State University-Northern sophomore forward Courtney Blume has to go against the best bigs in the Frontier Conference night in an night out. At just 5-10, Blume is Northern's workhorse in the paint.
And while there's been a learning curve along the way, Blume is really starting to come into her own. The former Whitefish Bulldog averaged 20 points and seven rebounds in the Skylights' weekend sweep of Carroll College and Rocky Mountain College, and she shot 98 percent from the free-throw-line on the weekend. Blume has had big games for the Skylights recently, but her play on the interior this weekend was instrumental in Northern getting back on track, all the while having to guard the likes of Carroll forwards Sara Meyer and Jeni Guertin, as well as 6-4 Rocky center Laura Beach.
"What can you say about Courtney Blume, she's playing great basketball right now," Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. "She;s undersized, but her work ethic and determination, her heart is unmatched, and she had a great weekend. The way she finished around the basket was amazing and she was near perfect on the free-throw-line. She's really improving as a post player every game and it's fun to see."
Carroll College junior forward Andy Garland can't like playing in Havre much.
The 6-5 star forward from Missoula came into Friday night's game as the reigning Frontier and NAIA Player of the Week, but the Lights' defense did a number on him for the second straight time in Havre. Northern's Joe Simpson, Sean Kelly and Chris Brown combined to hold Garland to 11 points, four rebound and four fouls on Friday night, and with that, the Saints struggled at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse yet again.
Garland came to Havre averaging just under 19 points and eight rebounds per game this season, and as a sophomore he entered the game with the Lights scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 boards a game, but Northern shut him down to the tune of eight points and one rebound that night.
Plays of the weekend
Northern basketball teams won all four games this weekend at home. And while there was plenty of excitement to go around, a few moves really stood out.
As a team, the Skylights made 20-of-22 free throws in their route of Carroll on Friday night, while Laramie Schwenke made some of the most picturesque back door passes to teammates as Northern's offense really clicked. Meanwhile, in the men's game on Friday night, 3-pointers were the theme of the night, but it was an emphatic dunk towards the end of the game by junior Sean Kelly which sent the jubilant Northern crowd into a frenzy, and really put an exclamation point on the Lights' win.
A Joe Simpson dunk was one of the many highlights in Saturday night's win over the Rocky men, but a heady play by junior David Maddock may have saved the day. Maddock was all over Rocky's Anthony Carter just after the Lights had taken a 50-49 lead with under a minute to go. And while falling, Maddock could of easily committed a costly foul. Instead, he kept his balance and forced Carter to step out of bounds with the ball, essentially giving the Lights a two-for-one exchange and the win.
In the women's game Saturday night, it was a reverse layup by Courtney Blume which best typified Northern's night as the Skylights' offense rolled for a second straight game.