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Lights aim to stay hot on the road

Northern men take a three-game winning streak into tonight's rematch with Western

 

January 17, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Justin Dunsmore, left, drives by a Montana Tech defender during Saturday's Frontier Conference game in the Armory Gymnasium. The Lights will play their next five games on the road, starting with a rematch with Montana Western tonight in Dillon. Western was the last team to beat the Lights, who are currently on a three-game win streak.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights are on a roll. Now, to keep the roll going, they'll have to win on the road for a while.

Northern (3-3, 11-7), winners of three straight Frontier Conference games, will be away from the Armory Gymnasium for the next two weeks, and that road trip starts tonight with a rematch against the Montana Western Bulldogs in Dillon. Northern then traverses west to Lewiston, Idaho, for a second meeting with the Lewis-Clark State Warriors.

And it was just two weeks ago that the Lights' current hot streak started, and ironically, it started with a heart-breaking loss to the Bulldogs in the Armory. Since that game, the Lights have beaten nationally ranked LC State, nationally ranked Providence, and a much-improved Montana Tech squad.

The key to those wins has been a resurgent Northern offense. The Lights have always been stout offensively, especially with dangerous 3-point shooters like Mascio McCadney, Adam Huse, Devin Bray and Caulin Bakalarski. Bakalarski has been especially sizzling during Northern's win streak, too. Add to that the always steady play of Justin Dunsmore and perhaps the Frontier's best sixth-man in Kavon Bey, and the Lights are very hard to defend. But in their last three games, they've been even better. Northern is shooting better than 55 percent from the field and a scorching 48 percent from the 3-point-line during its current winning streak.

"I do feel like we're starting to click more and more," Northern head coach Shawn Huse said. "It does feel like we're improving more and more, and that has been the goal all along."

Now, the goal is to continue growing, especially since the Lights have become a major factor in the Frontier. Northern enters this weekend's trip in a four-way tie for second in the conference standings.

But, to keep all this going, the Lights will have to beat the last team that beat them - Western. The Bulldogs built a big lead in Havre two weeks ago, and while the Lights nearly came all the way back, Western escaped the Armory with a win. Still, the Dawgs (1-5, 7-10), have just one win in conference play, and they have struggled at times offensively. Kooper Kidgell is a dangerous inside-out threat, but overall, Western is struggling to put the ball in the hole.

The same cannot be said for LC State. Ranked No. 16 in the latest NAIA Coaches Poll, the Warriors (3-3, 14-4) are not just one of the highest-scoring teams in the conference, but in all of the NAIA. They average 94 ppg, and still hit that mark in the Lights' 99-95 win over LCSC two weeks ago in Havre. It's no surprise that LC can score given the wealth of talent at its disposal. Damek Mitchell scored 39 points the last time out against Northern, while Dana Abe, Cory Dollarhide, Race Martin and Cordell Hankerson all average in double figures, and five more Warriors average at least six points or more per night.

Yes, there's no doubt, Northern's two road games will be interesting this weekend. The Lights are seeking revenge tonight in Dillon, while the Warriors will look to get some payback against the Lights Saturday afternoon.

"Well, we know both teams very well and they know us very well ... having just played them a week ago," Huse said. "We will certainly need to be ready to go and playing with the energy I've seen recently from our squad if we expect to come out on top in these ones. The road is always a challenge but it feels like the guys are excited to give them everything we've got."

The Lights meet Western tonight at 7:30 in Dillon. Northern takes on LC State Saturday at 4 p.m. in Lewiston, Idaho.

 

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