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Big Games: MSU-N men host DSU, visit Griz

Lights won't overlook rival Blue Hawks tonight, ahead of road trip to powerhouse Montana


November 8, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Jesse Keltner and the Montana State University-Northern Lights are back in the Armory Gymnasium to play Dickinson State tonight at 8. Northern then travles to Missoula Sunday for a game against the Montana Grizzlies.

From the time they started fall conditioning to the time they finally tipped off the regular season, the Montana State University-Northern Lights had to wait a long nine weeks.

But to get to the second game of the year, Northern (1-0) only had to wait five days.

Tonight in the Armory Gymnasium, the No. 10 Lights begin a new chapter in their young season when they host arch rival Dickinson State. Then, Northern heads west to play an exhibition game against easily the premier college basketball program in Montana, the University of Montana Grizzlies Sunday afternoon.

First thing's first though - the Lights, and head coach Shawn Huse, are focused on just the Blue Hawks (0-3). And while Northern steam rolled its way to a 100-54 win last Sunday in its season-opener, Huse admits, Dickinson State will be a whole different challenge.

"They (Blue Hawks) will feel very much more like a Frontier Conference opponent," Huse said. "They played us very tough last season, I thought they got better and better as last season went on, and, they have a bunch of guys back from that team. So, we're going to have to be very well prepared and ready to go if we want to have success in that game."

DSU is built like a Frontier team, and the Blue Hawks are paced by guards Kenny Jackson and Malcolm Hill, but DSU also has plenty of depth, and guard Travon Hamilton will be another one to watch tonight.

Of course, depth is something the Lights have, too, and they have a lot of it.

Northern had six players score in double figures in last Sunday's win over Providence University of Manitoba, with Mascio McCadney and Kavon Bey leading the way. Adam Huse was also red-hot from the 3-point-line, and the Lights showed off their depth with Gio Jackson and Jesse Keltner making an immediate impact off the bench.

And yet, no matter how much depth and talent the Lights have, their exhibition game Sunday at Montana will still be a massive challenge, especially because the game won't be an exhibition for the home team.

The Griz (0-1), who lost their season-opener at Pac 12 Stanford Wednesday night, will be hungry to put their first win of the season on the board, in what will be their home-opener. Montana is also coming off back-to-back Big Sky championships and NCAA Tournament appearances under the wildly popular Travis DeCuire, and the Griz also return Big Sky Preseason Player of the Year Sayeed Pridgette, so to say the Lights will have their hands full Sunday is an understatement.

"We know the challenge of play at Montana," coach Huse said. "What an incredible job Coach DeCuire has done with that program. Right now, they are the elite program in the Big Sky Conference, and one of the top programs in the Northwest honestly.

"At the same time, we have to go in with the same mindset that we always have," Huse continued. "We want to try and win every game we play, and this one is no different."

No doubt, Northern will play to win Sunday, and while Montana graduated a ton of talent off of last year's team, including Ahmad Rorie and Mike Oguine, the Griz still present huge matchup problems, with veteran guard Timmy Falls in the backcourt, as well as star senior Kendal Manuel. The Lights, however, will still have the tallest player in the front court in Cedric Crutchfield, and he and the rest of the Lights' interior will be familiar with Griz senior Shawn Samuelson, who played the last two years at Rocky Mountain College, before transferring back to Montana, where his career started.

"I think the biggest key for us is, how we can we play defensively," Huse said. "If we can be consistent with our defense, I think that will give us a chance to be successful on the other end of the floor. But that's the challenge, is defending a team like Montana. They have so many weapons. So, trying to be successful defensively, that's a huge challenge for our guys, and that's going to kind of determine how much success we'll have in that game."

And the challenge is something the Lights want. With a veteran team and lofty goals this season, the Lights relish the challenge of playing a team like the Grizzlies, no matter the outcome.

"It's exciting for us," Huse said. "Montana is an elite program, and to go down there and play a team that has been to the NCAA tournament the last couple of years, that's an exciting opportunity for our guys."

First, though, the Lights will look to take care of business against Dickinson State. That game tips off tonight at 8 inside the Armory Gymnasium. Northern's road game at Montana will tip at 2 p.m. Sunday inside Dahlberg Arena.


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