McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Despite a career-high 38 points from Andrew Batiuk, the visiting Montana State-Northern Lights battled for an intense 71-67 victory over Linfield Friday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Devin Jackson (24) led the Lights in the scoring department, and Jesse Vaughan contributed 15 points and five rebounds. The Lights, led by ninth-year head coach Shawn Huse (183-105), are currently ranked 22nd in the NAIA-DI coaches’ poll.
Batiuk led Linfield with 11 rebounds, and Matt Kalbfleisch contributed six points and grabbed five boards for the ‘Cats.
Montana State-Northern, averaging just under 10 three-point field goals per game (third amongst NAIA-DI schools), lived up to its reputation of dominance from long range, sinking three shots from beyond the arc in the first four minutes of play. On the game, the Lights knocked down 10 shots from downtown.
The Lights (12-2), pushed their early lead to 13-4, and Wildcats head coach Larry Doty burned the team’s first timeout with 16 minutes remaining in the first.
The ‘Cats (2-7) failed to capitalize on fast-break scoring opportunities, and had difficulty cutting into MSU-Northern’s grasp on the lead. A three from Mike LaValley that sunk the net as the shot clock expired gave the Lights a double-digit advantage midway through the first.
A hard-earned offensive rebound from Will Perry led to a second-chance layup and pushed the spread to 30-18 in favor of the Lights with two minutes remaining.
A three from Batiuk with just over a minute remaining was followed by a bucket from Kalbfleisch, and the ‘Cats were suddenly within five as time wound down. But another three from Jackson gave the Lights a 33-25 halftime lead.
Linfield scoring threat Brandon Harris was neutralized in the first, as the sophomore guard was limited to just two points on a pair of free throws. On the game Harris contributed nine points.
Despite 13 points from Batiuk in the first, the Wildcats could not overcome seven three-point field goals from the Lights. MSU-Northern took advantage of Linfield’s poor field goal shooting percentage, and fully utilized the shot clock to create open looks at the rim.
Linfield chipped away at the Lights’ lead to open the second half, and a jumper from Nick Cantonwine (Jr., Salem, Ore.) cut the score to 40-36, advantage MSU-Northern. With just over six minutes remaining, Batiuk converted a layup to pull the ‘Cats within one, 53-52.
A turnover from the ‘Cats with just under two minutes remaining proved to be costly, as the Lights extended their lead back to 64-58 with a layup on the ensuing play.
Batiuk drained a three with 40 seconds remaining to pull the ‘Cats back into the game with the score sitting at 66-64. This is as close as the ‘Cats would get however, as Linfield could not overcome the deficit.
On the game, the Lights shot just 9-for-16 from the free-throw line while the ‘Cats went 9-for-13 in the same category. Linfield also outrebounded MSU-Northern, 36-30.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Batiuk’s previous career high of 33 came in Linfield’s first game of 2012-13, an 87-85 loss at Menlo…Batiuk is now tied with Mark Wickman for 10th all-time in single-game scoring…the sophomore center has scored 30 or more points on three occasions in his young career…the double-double was Batiuk’s second of the season and third of his career.
NEXT UP: Linfield travels to Las Vegas for a pair of contests in the D3hoops.com Tournament. The ‘Cats take on Hardin Simmons at 2 p.m. Dec. 29, and then tip off against Wisconsin Lutheran the following afternoon at 4 p.m.
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