By Bill Foley
Saturday night was all too familiar for the Montana Tech men’s basketball team.
The Oredigger found themselves in an early hole and were able to dig out of it. This time around, MSU-Northern went wire to wire to knock off Tech 76-62 in a Frontier Conference game at the HPER Complex. Stats
The win gave the Lights the three-game season sweep of the Orediggers.
“It’s about two Saturdays in a row,” Tech coach Adam Hiatt of the slow start costing the Orediggers. “Actually, it’s about three months in a row now. We talk about it all the time.”
Tyler Chandler hit back-to-back 3-poitners to cap an 11-2 game-opening run for the Lights, and Northern never trailed.
Northern built an 18-6 lead, and from there the game hovered between an eight- and 15-point lead for the Lights, who improved to 19-7 overall and 8-6 in conference.
Northern held a 36-27 advantage at halftime, and the Lights led by as many as 16 points in the second half.
Tech also pulled to within single digits several times after the break.
“It was even throughout most of the game until the fouls at the end,” Hyatt said. “They stretched it with free throws.”
Chandler hit four 3-pointers and scored 18 points to lead three Lights in double figures scoring. Dylan Tatarka added 13 points, and David Straughter scored 10.
Ryan Reeves, a 6-foot-10 junior, blocked four shots in the first half to help the Lights take the lead.
Sophomore guard Lukas Vinning tossed in 26 points to lead the Orediggers. He scored 75 points over Tech’s last three games, including 26 points in Thursday’s heartbreaking loss to the University of Great Falls.
“We can’t expect him to score 20 plus every game, but he’s done it three straight games now,” Hiatt said. “He’s been really good. He’s such a competitive kid. He’s a great foundation kid for us to build on.”
Chris O’Neill added 15 points for the Orediggers, who seven different players score. John Chapman netted seven points, while Carson Dummer tossed in five, Flemming Okeke scored four, Dylan Pannabecker scored three, and Jordan Jones scored two.
Tech fell to 8-19 and 1-14. The Orediggers will likely need to win their remaining three games and get some help to make the Frontier Conference playoffs.
Hiatt said he is just focusing on his team improving as his first year at Tech comes to a close.
“I like some of our young players,” the coach said. “We’re doing some good stuff, and we’re heading in the right direction.”
The Orediggers hit the road to take on Rocky Mountain College and Montana Western next week. The team then wraps up the regular season Feb. 23 at home against Carroll College.