DILLON — For the first 17 minutes, Montana Western and Montana State-Northern went punch for punch, bucket for bucket.
Then as halftime drew closer, the Bulldogs went cold and the Lights couldn’t miss. A 30-25 lead for Northern with three minutes to play turned into a 42-25 advantage at the half. That in turn became a 81-63 victory for the visiting Lights at Straugh Gymnasium Wednesday night.
“It’s kind of our season right now,” Western coach Mike Larsen said. "We just find ways to not play 20 straight minutes in the first half. … And when we get stagnant on offense we don’t score and then it leads to not playing defense. They scored eight of their last nine possessions to close the half the last three minutes, and that was the difference in the game.”
For Western, those last three minutes were a window into the greater picture of what went wrong. The Bulldogs finished 11 of 21 from the free-throw line against Northern’s 20 of 23 output from the stripe. Northern had 41 bench points, Western had nine. Only seven of Western’s field goals came on assists, meanwhile Northern had 17 helpers.
A bright spot from the beginning though was the shooting of Cedric Boone. The point guard began the game 4-for-4 on 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 26 points. Those jump shots to begin the game, however, eventually rimmed out in the second half as the Lights pulled away.
For Northern, the victory is a measure of redemption for their first meeting earlier this month in Havre. The Bulldogs narrowly won that contest, giving them their first and only conference victory to this point.
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“I do think we’re capable of doing what we did tonight, but at the same time Western was no fluke in Havre,” Northern coach Shawn Huse said of their first meeting. “I thought they played really good, I still think they have a really good team. I feel fortunate we came in here and got them tonight, that’s a good basketball team despite whatever record they may have.”
Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 forward Kavon Bey scored 22 points with nine rebounds for the Lights. The Detroit native plays with a combination of brute strength and swift movement that was difficult for the Bulldogs to match all night.
“A good feel for the game, go inside, go outside, moves very well for his size,” Huse said. “ … A big guy who moves really well and gets a lot done.”
Western falls to 7-11 (1-6 Frontier) with the loss, while Montana State-Northern is now 12-7 (4-3). That conference mark has the Lights second in the Frontier so far, with only Carroll College ahead of them.
And for Huse, who noted his team took a tie to the break in their last meeting with the Saints, Northern is still very much a contender in the conference.
“I feel like we’re certainly in the mix. I look forward to what’s remaining on the schedule as far as what we can do,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t look forward to what’s remaining on the schedule because of who we have to play. This conference is so tough, top to bottom.”