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Skylights, Lights home this weekend


December 15, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Jessica Curl, right, and the Montana State University-Northern Skylights host Nueta Hidatsa in a pair of non-conference games this weekend in the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights and Lights play the Storm tonight, while just the women play Saturday.

Finals are in the books. Christmas is on the way and a new year is, too. But for the Montana State University-Northern men's and women's basketball teams, there's still plenty of hoops to be played in December.

The Lights and Skylights are both home this weekend to host Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College in games inside the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights take on the Lady Storm both tonight and Saturday night, while the Lights face the Storm tonight.

For the Northern women, it's a return to the court after a week off. The No. 22 Skylights (6-4) had played six grueling games against top competition in a three-week stretch and had some injury problems along the way. Now though, a rested Northern squad is ready to play the first of their final three non-conference games.

"After a week off, we are simply looking forward to being back on the floor at home," MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. "I think we got some much-needed rest and recovery time, and kids were able to really focus on finishing the semester in the classroom well."

When the Skylights do take the floor, they'll be led by senior Jacy Thompson, who averages more than 15 points per game. Fellow senior Brandy Lambourne and junior Peyton Filius are also averaging double-digits, while Filius has also become one of MSU-N's top defenders. Jessica Curl and Kealani Sagapolu have been strong inside, while Northern is still without injured starter Shiloh McCormick.

As for the two games against the Lady Storm, Mouat expects good competition, but he's also looking for his team to get back into the swing of things, and continue to improve, especially with a game against nationally ranked Our Lady of Lake, and the re-start of Frontier Conference play looming.

"Nueta Hidatsa has played a couple of Frontier teams, but that was a few months ago, and their roster has changed a bit since that time," Mouat said. "However, in the films we have watched, they have quite a few capable scorers.  They are a little unpredictable at times, and a lot of different kids will be posting up. They all finish around the rim, move well without the ball and have quite a few kids who can knock down the open three. It's going to be important that we keep them in front of us off of the dribble, and that we are sound defensively.  And as always, limiting them to one shot is a major focus for us.  Jess Hale (6-0 post) is pretty unique because she plays literally everywhere on the floor.  She has had some big scoring games, including against Frontier Conference teams. Their perimeter players have some length and can score as well.

"I feel like we have improved over the past two weeks," he continued. "We had an awful lot to learn from the Rocky and Carroll games, and I think our players have taken a lot to heart. Our offensive execution and defensive rebounding have been a big focus for us. These are our last two games before the break, and it's important that we get a look at a lot of kids."

While the Skylights will play Nueta Hidatsa twice this weekend, the Lights, of head coach Shawn Huse will battle the Storm tonight in what will be MSU-N's final game before the holiday break. The Lights (7-3) played just last week, blowing out Yellowstone Christian, and while the Storm will present challenges, the high-scoring Lights will be heavy favorites tonight, in what is part of a current nine-game home stand.

"We know they all shoot from deep so we will definitely need to be on our toes defending the 3-point line," Huse said. "It's been a good start for us and we just need to keep learning and getting better each day. Our eyes are on the immediate challenges this weekend, and right after Christmas versus Concordia ... while at the same time some of our thoughts are on conference play as it comes faster than ever this year. Because of the quick start, we have to maximize prep days for our upcoming league opposition."

The Lights do have an eye on Frontier play, which is rapidly approaching, and they hope to continue their hot streak they're on right now. Six Lights, in Ryan Reeves, Gabe Porter, Adam Huse, Justin Dunsmore, Charles Porter and Devin Bray, average double figures for an MSU-N offense that's averaging 99 points per game. The Lights also lead the country in 3-pointers per game and 3-point field goal percentage. So the Storm will have to work hard to keep up tonight.

Following tonight's game, MSU-N will be off until it hosts Concordia of Alberta for a pair of games Dec. 29-30. Then comes to second start to Frontier play when MSU-N takes on the University of Providence Jan. 2.

Tonight's games between Northern and Nueta Hidatsa tip off with the women at 6 and the men at 8 in the Armory. The Skylights and Lady Storm meet again Saturday at 6 p.m.


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