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Lights return home to face Top 25 Battlin' Bears, Saints

 

February 1, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Kavon Bey, left, and the Montana State University-Northern Lights start a four-game homestand tonight when they host the Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears inside the Armory. Saturday, the Lights welcome in second-ranked Carroll College.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights probably feel like they haven't played a game in the Armory Gymnasium in forever. In reality, it's been 19 days, but for the road-tested Lights that's long enough.

Now Northern (5-5, 13-9), winner of five of its last seven games, finally knows it will be in the friendly confines of the Armory for the next two weekends, and that home stand begins tonight with a second meeting against the Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears, followed by a visit from the Carroll College Fighting Saints. Both games tip at 8 p.m.

And just like it feels like forever since the Lights have played at home, it seems like it's been even longer since they played the Bears or Saints, two NAIA Top 25 teams. Northern opened the Frontier season back in November with close, road losses at Rocky and Carroll, and while that was a long time ago, the wait is over for the rematches. Those rematches will be daunting, no doubt, but since Northern traveled to Rocky and Carroll, things have turned around. MSU-N has been red-hot in January, and the Lights are looking to begin February in the same fashion.

"We feel like we've grown really well as a team through this initial stretch of conference play," noted MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse. "With just a few more breaks, adjustments and, or, made shots, we know we could be sitting in an even better position. On the flip side, after playing seven of our first 10 conference games on the road, and considering the fact that everyone in this league is extremely tough in their own way, I am pleased to be where we are."

The Lights should be pleased. They started league play 0-3, but now sit in a tie for third place, and everything they hope to accomplish this season is still there for the taking. Northern has also grown as Huse said, into one of the most balanced and dynamic offensive teams in the country. The Lights still rely on the 3-pointer, and get double-digit scoring from guards Mascio McCadney, Adam Huse, Caulin Bakalarski and Devin Bray. But MSU-N has been just as good of late with its inside and mid-range game, thanks to savvy veteran Justin Dunsmore, and the emergence of Kavon Bey, who is coming off the bench to average 12 points and eight rebounds per night. Add to that 6-8 Cedric Curtchfield, and the Lights are becoming a team that's very hard to defend.

Of course, hard to defend would also define Rocky and Carroll.

The No. 22 Bears (6-4, 15-7) bring a three-game winning streak into tonight's bout with the Lights. They also bring one of the league's best players in 6-8 junior Jared Samuelson, who averages more than 20 points per game. The Bears bring with them a host of veteran weapons around Samuelson, too, as well as former Box Elder star Brandon The Boy, who has emerged as a rising star for RMC.

"Rocky plays very hard and scores well," Huse said. "Anytime you have a threat like Jared to contend with, you have your work cut out for you. We will need to be on point on both ends of the floor if we expect to have success this time around."

If Rocky is a tough offense to defend, then the No. 2 Fighting Saints (9-1, 20-2) are nothing short of a juggernaut. Carroll brings a six-game streak into its game at Providence tonight, and with the Saints come three of the most prolific scorers in the Frontier, including former Havre High star Dane Warp, who is third in the league with his 18.8 ppg. Warp has exploded in his junior season, and the Saints have too under first-year head coach Kurt Paulson.

Offensively, Carroll averages 89 points per game, while only allowing 71. The Saints also have senior Match Burnham averaging 20 per outing, while Matt Wyman pours in 17 a night. Add to that the veteran play of Ife Kalejeye at point guard, and rising star Shamrock Campbell, and there's a reason Carroll is the highest-ranked team to come to the Armory in a long, long time.

"Much like Rocky, the Saints bring some great main weapons and a great supporting cast," Huse said. "Breaking up their rhythm is not an easy thing to do. We must find a way to slow them down, while taking advantage of scoring opportunities when we have the ball."

The Lights will attempt to do just that Saturday night when Carroll invades the Armory at 8 p.m. First though, Northern will battle Rocky tonight at 8 in the Armory. The Lights are also home to play Providence next Wednesday and Montana Tech next Friday inside the Armory Gymnasium.

Lights (5-5, 13-9) vs #22 RMC (6-4, 15-7) tonight at 8 p.m.; vs #2 Carroll (9-1, 20-2) Saturday at 8 p.m.

In Armory Gymnasium

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Lights Projected Starters

G Devin Bray, 5-10, Jr., 10 ppg

G Adam Huse, 6-1, Jr., 12 ppg

G Mascio McCadney, 6-3, So., 15 ppg

F Justin Dunsmore, 6-6, Sr. 13 ppg

F Cedric Crutchfield, 6-8, Jr., 6 ppg

 

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