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Lights ground Blue Hawks, push Griz to the brink

Northern puts a big time scare into NCAA DI Montana in Missoula matinee

 

November 11, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Gio Jackson drives to the basket during Friday night's game between the Lights and Dickinson State Blue Hawks in the Armory Gymnasium. Not only did the Lights beat the Blue Hawks Friday night, but they nearly pulled off an upset win over the Montana Grizzlies on Sunday in Missoula.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights were certainly excited to take their shot at the two-time defending Big Sky Conference champion Montana Grizzlies Sunday afternoon in Missoula. But the Lights couldn't afford to overlook Dickinson State in the meantime.

And they didn't.

Friday night in the Armory Gymnasium, Northern pulled out a hard-fought, 76-60 win over the rival Blue Hawks, in a game head coach Shawn Huse said, felt like a Frontier Conference matchup.

"It was a tough game," Huse said. "Credit Dickinson State. They are a physical, scrappy, defensive team. They really make you work hard for everything you get. But on the other end, that's why I'm really proud of our guys. They were prepared, they played really good defense, and it was a really nice, team effort offensively."

The Lights did play good defense against a deep Blue Hawk roster. Northern held DSU to just 39 percent shooting and 29 percent from beyond the arc, while also out-rebounding the Blue Hawks 36-25.

And while offensively, Kavon Bey lit the Blue Hawks up for 20 points, it was his defense that impressed his head coach.

"I was proud of Kavon tonight," Huse said. "We asked him to guard multiple positions, and he was on point all night. He played a huge game for us on both ends of the floor, as did all our guys defensively."

Dickinson's defense did stymie the Lights at times, especially from distance, where they made just four triples. But Northern was efficient, shooting 50 percent and riding the spark of David Harris and Jesse Keltner to a 37-24 halftime lead.

The Blue Hawks continued to fight on the defensive end, but late spurts, sparked by Gio Jackson and Bey, helped the Lights pull away for the double-digit win.

Bey led five Lights in double figures, with Harris totaling 13 points and seven boards, and Jackson and Keltner each chipping in with 11. Adam Huse nailed two treys and scored 10, as well.

"It was a good win," Huse said. "We always have tough games with Dickinson, so credit our guys for being prepared and ready to go."

With the victory over the Blue Hawks secured, the Lights could then start thinking about the Grizzlies. And while Sunday's game was an exhibition for Northern, it was the Griz' regular season home-opener, which makes the way the Lights played, all the more impressive.

Yes, Northern went into Dahlberg Arena Sunday, jumped all over the defending Big Sky champion Grizzlies, and led 32-30 at halftime before finally succumbing to UM 64-50.

"I'm really proud of the guys for the way they came down here to compete, and play to win," Huse said. "We knew what we were up against playing a team like Montana, with their tradition, and the level they play at. But still, we're leaving that gym tonight disappointed that we didn't win, because we have high expectations for ourselves."

MSU-N did play to win, and shocked the Griz and Griz fans from the start. The Lights broke open a 6-6 tie and eventually led 18-8 with 11:17 left in the first half. They upped that lead to 25-12, as Mascio McCadney and Devin Bray combined for 18 points. At 32-19, the Griz clawed their way back via an 11-0 run to finish the first half, but the Lights did what they set out to do, and that was get off to a great start and see what happens.

Northern also defended at a high level for 40 minutes. The Lights also still led 42-37 with 14 minutes left in the contest, but eventually, Big Sky Player of the Year candidate Sayeed Pridgett would take over the game, And while the Lights would fall, they were never completely out of it. They trailed just 58-50, with three minutes to go, but they just couldn't find the bucket from there.

While Pridgett was too much for Northern, with his 30 points, the Lights got 15 from Kavon Bey and another 14 from McCadney in the exhibition game loss, as Northern remains 2-0 on the season. The MSU-N defense also held the Griz to just 44 percent shooting, and only two made 3-pointers. But, on the other end, the Lights' hot start was countered by shooting just 26 percent in the second half, while the Griz also held a decisive second-half edge on the boards.

"I felt like if we could have maintained what we were doing in the first half, who knows what the outcome might have been," Huse said. "But, the situation we were in tonight, was similar to what they (Griz) faced against Michigan in the last two NCAA tournaments. That little bit of extra size and length, makes it so challenging to one, keep scoring, but also, keep having to defend. So credit them (Griz) for using that and not only fighting back, but ultimately taking command of the game.

"But also, credit our guys for putting ourselves in a very good position tonight against Montana," he continued. "It was a great experience, and one we're going to learn a lot from."

The Lights will return to regular season action Nov. 22-23 at the University of Providence Tournament in Great Falls.

Lights 76, Dickinson State 60

DSU - Shawn Stoltz 3-4 0-0 6, Donte Walker 3-10 0-0 7, Kenny Jackson 2-9 2-4 6, Montel Carlow 1-4 2-2 5, Nick Wurm 2-4 1-1 5, Jalon Tinnen 4-6 0-0 8, Grant Kohlus 1-3 5-5 5, Ajdin Toskic 5-8 1-2 13, Malcolm Hill 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 22-56 11-19.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-N - Kavon Bey 9-17 2-2 20, Cedric Crutchfield 2-2 0-0 4, Mascio McCadney 2-10 1-1 5, Adam Huse 3-5 2-2 10, Devin Bray 0-2 2-2 2, Gio Jackson 3-3 4-6 11, David Harris 4-9 4-4 13, Jesse Keltner 4-5 3-4 11, James Fry 0-0 0-0 0, TJ Reynolds 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-53 18-21.

Halftime: Northern 37-24. 3-pointers: DSU 5-17 (Walker 1, Carlow 1, Toskic 2, Hill 1), MSU-N 4-11 (Huse 2, Jackson 1, Harris 1). Rebounds: DSU 25 (Stoltz 6), MSU-N 36 (Harris 7). Fouls: DSU 19, MSU-N 15; Fouled out: None. Technical Foul: DSU Bench.

Montana 64, Lights 50

MSU-N - Jackson 0, McCadney 14, Huse 9, Fry 0, Reynolds 0, Harris 0, Keltner 6, Bey 15, Bray 6, Crutchfield 0. Totals: 20-53 4-4.

UM - Owens 11, Manuel 8, Vazquez 2, Egun 0, Anderson 3, Falls 4, Pridgette 30, Carter-Hollinger 6. Totals: 27-60 8-10.

 

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