GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A late rally fell short for Argo basketball in a 59-53 slugfest loss to Montana State University – Northern. Neither offense was particularly sharp, with each squad committing 14 turnovers and only one team in one half shooting better than 40 percent from the field.
The difference was much better outside shooting from the Lights than the Argos. Throughout the course of the game, Northern hit nine 3-pointers for at a rate of 34 percent, while UGF went 1-11 from distance.
Two of those nine three for Northern were the first two field goals for the lights, but it took a while before those fell. Senior guard Tyler Chandler's first three at the 17:36 mark ended a two and half minute scoreless period for both teams to start the game.
UGF's Sergio Berkley scored on a drive to the buck on the next possession, but Chandler answered with another three, giving Norther an early 6-2 lead. That sequence turned out to be a fairly accurate foreshadowing off how the game would play out as whole.
Northern led for the entirety of the half after Chandler's first bucket, and the Lights used a four minute scoring drought for UGF to build a 10-point lead with just under two minutes left in the period.
Finally, the Argo's scored after the Lights took their first double-digit lead, getting a contested free-throw line jumper to fall from sophomore Jarred Burr. The guard then made UGF's only three of the game on the next possession to finish with the last 5 points of the half and bring the score to 30-25 at the half.
Burr ended the period as UGF's leading scorer with 7 points while shooting a perfect 3-3 from the field. He wouldn't take another shot from the rest of the game.
Senior forward John Makkar scored his only two points of the game to start the second half, which brought UGF with one score of the Lights. That would be closed the Argos would get. Northern answered quelled the threat with a 7-0 run that brought the lead back to 10 and over the next 11 minutes that lead grew to 14.
With no outside shooting to speak of, the only thing keeping the Argos within plausible comeback range was the driving abilities of junior Sergio Berkley. The guard scored eight straight points for UGF from the 5:30 mark to the 1:50 mark.
His efforts turned a 12-point margin with 3:43 left in the game, and the outcome seemingly inevitable, to a difficult but conceivable 8-point margin to overcome with just under two minutes left.
Junior guard Jared Schultz then scored four of his nine points in the final two minutes setting up a potentially epic last minute rally. That rally looked like it might happen with 17 second left on the clock. Down six and with momentum building, senior Isaac Howard caught a kick out in the short corner right in front of the Argo bench, but as his teammates rose off their seats ready to celebrate, the ball sailed long and the game was essentially over.
Berkley finished as the only Argo to score more than nine points, with a total of 14 off 5-6 shooting from the field. He also added two assists, one block, and one steal. Schultz got all nine of his points in the second half to finish as the team's second leading scorer.
While he only finished with two points, junior forward Treyvon Bashir played the best defensive game of anyone on the UGF squad, setting new career highs with three steals, and three blocks, including a huge swat on a Northern fast break layup with 26 seconds left. He also led UGF with seven rebounds.
The loss puts UGF's record at 11-15 (3-12) on the season, though it still holds a firm grasp on the last Frontier Conference playoff spot. Next for UGF will be a daunting road trip down to Helena to play (8) Carroll College on Friday, February 17 at 7:30 p.m. The Fighting Saints have beat UGF by an average of 38.5 points in their last two meetings.