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Frontier Notebook: Ranked rivals nothing new for Lights, Skylights

Frontier Conference Notebook

 

January 8, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Hailey Nicholson, right, looks for a shot during last Saturday's Frontier Conference game against Lewis-Clark State. Tonight, the Skylights play their fifth straight league game against a rival ranked in the NAIA Top 25 when they travel to Great Falls to take on the University of Providence.

The Montana State University-Northern men's and women's basketball teams are getting awfully used to their Frontier Conference games being against rivals ranked in the NAIA Top 25.

Already this season, all four of the Skylight's league games have been against Top 25 teams, while three of the Light's four have, as well. And nothing will change tonight for Northern, which travels to Great Falls to face the University of Providence Argos.

Both Providence teams hold Top 25 rankings, with the UP women sitting at No. 13 in the latest NAIA Coaches Poll. The Argos may just be 1-3 in the Frontier, but they're 13-4 overall, and very deserving of their ranking - especially after Saturday night.

Yes, the team the Skylights will have to play tonight just became the first squad to topple UM-Western this season. UP did that Saturday night when they beat the fourth-ranked Bulldogs 61-50 in Great Falls. Western had beaten Northern soundly just one night earlier, so now, the Skylights (0-4, 8-8) will try to get their first win of the conference season against the mighty Argos, led by Parker Esary's 14 points and 10 rebounds per night.

While the Skylights are playing their fifth straight ranked Frontier opponent tonight, the Lights will play their fourth in five games. That's because the Providence Argos, of new head coach Steve Keller, are back in the NAIA Top 25 for the first time in four years.

Sitting at 3-1 in the Frontier, and 12-3 overall, Keller has obviously had a major impact on the UP program. The Argos have finished last or second to last in the Frontier in each of the last six seasons, but so far this season, they are red-hot, leading the Frontier at 97 ppg. UP also has six players scoring in double figures, led by Brandon Cotton, who scores 19 ppg, Jalen Shepard, who adds 17 a night and Austin Starr, who scores 15 per outing.

Tonight's men's game also features two teams feeling pretty good about themselves right now, as UP is coming off a dominant weep of Lewis-Clark State and UM-Western, while the Lights just knocked off the No. 10 Warriors 99-95 Saturday night in Havre.

Tonight's games between Providence and Northern start with the women at 5:30, followed by the men at 7:30 in the McLaughlin Center in Great Falls.

Ranked Ones Fall

Between the men and the women, the Frontier currently has seven teams ranked in the NAIA Coaches Poll. So, with that many teams in the Top 25, ranked squads are bound to fall.

And did they ever last week.

It started with the No. 3 Carroll College men, which lost at Rocky Mountain College. It was the Fighting Saints' first loss against an NAIA opponent this season, but it came at the hands of a Rocky team which had been in the Top 25 up until last week. Then, No. 10 LC State got dropped in games against both Providence and Northern over the weekend.

On the women's side, Providence lost to LCSC in a matchup of ranked squads, but then upset Western the next night. And in a showdown of ranked NAIA teams earlier last week, No. 8 Carroll survived against No. 22 Rocky.

So needless to say, when the next NAIA Coaches Polls come out, there's going to be some shakeups, for sure, but for the remainder of this Frontier season, there's going to be a lot of games between nationally ranked opponents too.

Scoring Watch

It's early, but there's players around the Frontier who are putting up some big, big numbers so far in league play.

Brianna King is leading the league, and UM-Western with nearly 22 points per game, while also leading the Frontier in steals. King also led the league in scoring a year ago. Right now, King's closest pursuers are UP teammates Easy and Emilee Maldanado, who both average 15 per night.

On the men's side, scoring is again way up this season. Jared Samuelson of RMC, who led the league in scoring last year, is averaging 21 ppg, while Carroll's Match Burnham and Matt Wyman average 20 and 19, respectively. In all, there are six players in the Frontier averaging more than 17 per game, including former Havre Blue Pony Dane Warp, who averages 19 ppg for the Saints.

Frontier Honors

Damek Mitchell of Lewis-Clark State College was selected the Frontier Conference's Men's Basketball Player of the Week.

Mitchell is a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard from Bellingham, Washington. The 10th-ranked Warriors dropped two games over the weekend. Lewis-Clark lost at No. 23 University of Providence 89-76 and at MSU-Northern 99-95.

For the weekend, Mitchell averaged 29.5 points, three rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He was 21 of 36 in field goals including 10 of 15, 3-point field goals, and 7 of 11 from free throw line. His 39 points against Northern was the most from a LCSC player in five seasons.

Also nominated: Devin Bray of MSU-Northern, Brandon Cotton of the University of Providence, Kooper Kidgell of Montana Western, Troy Owens of Montana Tech, Jared Samuelson of Rocky Mountain C0llege and Matt Wyman of Carroll College.

Brianna King of the University of Montana Western was selected the Frontier Conference's Women's Basketball Player of the Week.

King is a 5-foot-5 senior guard from Spokane, Washington. No. 4 Montana Western went 1-1 on the road. The Bulldogs beat MSU-Northern 64-30 and lost to No. 13 University of Providence 61-50. The loss to the Argos was UMW's first of the season.

King averaged 23.5 points, four rebounds and 1.5 steals. She was 18 of 44 from the field including and 2 of 3 from the free throw line.

Also nominated: Jossilyn Blackman of Lewis-Clark State, Brooke Jones of Rocky Mountain College, Peyton Kehr of MSU-Northern, Jaidyn Lyman of Carroll College, Emilee Maldonado of the University of Providence and Kaylee Zard of Montana Tech.

 

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