Western shuts down Northern, moves to 2-0 in conference

DILLON — The University of Montana Western men’s basketball team won their second Frontier Conference game in as many games as they defeated the visiting Lights of MSU-Northern 72-57. Stats

The ‘Dawgs (5-4, 2-0) started the first half lights out as they connected on 15 of 27 field goal attempts (56 percent) and 3 out of 6 long range bombs including two from Shyke Smalls.

Smalls erupted for 13 first half points on 5-8 shooting, he also had two steals to lead the up-tempo attack that led to 39 points in the first half.

Montana Western opened the first 5:03 of the game on a 16-4 tear, the Lights (8-2, 1-1) answered back with a 14-6 run of their own to come within four points – 22-18 – as the final 10 minutes resulted in a back-and-forth and the teams went to intermission in a battle, 39-34.

Demitrius Balark added 12 points on four made field goals and 4-5 from the free throw line.

Northern was paced in the opening stanza by Tyler Chandler (9 points) and David Straughter (8 points). All of Chandler’s points came from behind the 3-point line.

The new-look Bulldog defense continued to stymie their opponents as they held a potent Lights offense to 57 points. They came in averaging nearly 80 points per game.

Steve Keller coached teams have always traditionally played man-to-man, in 37 years of coaching, Keller said this is the first time his team has ever predominantly played zone.

It seems to be paying dividends as the Bulldogs improved to 2-0 in conference play and have held their last two teams well below their season averages.

Northern’s top two scorers – Chandler and Warren Edmondson – were limited to nine and five points respectively.

“It was a great team defensive effort,” stated Keller, “the zone has been great and we’ve cut back on fouls.”

The defensive effort amounted to 22-73 (30 percent) from the field, including an atrocious 10-44 (23 percent) from beyond the arc.

While the defense is what ultimately won the game for the home team, they were no slouches offensively as they pumped in 72 points on 28-53 (53 percent) shooting from the field. They were paced by Balark’s 21 points, which included his first 3-pointer of the season with 3:02 to play to end the scoring.

Smalls cooled off in the second half as he finished the game with 15 points and added on five rebounds, four steals and two assists.

Dexter Williams, Jr. had perhaps his best all-around game of the season as he finished with 13 points, 16 rebounds, two assists and one block.

Quinn Smith joined the trio of double digit scorers with 10 – eight came in the second half – he also grabbed five rebounds.

Connor Woodill came off the bench to grab seven rebounds in 18 minutes of action.

“I am really proud of how we came to work while we were off for two weeks,” smiled Keller, “the guys have bought in and I am really proud of them.”

Justin Dunsmore was the only Light to reach double figures with 11 points on 4-12 shooting from the field, he also grabbed six rebounds in the game.

David Straughter pitched in with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.

The Bulldogs will return to action on Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. as they travel to Helena to take on the Carroll College Fighting Saints.

— Montana Western Sports Information

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