HELENA — Extend Carroll’s win streak to seven games and make the Saints 12-5 on the season after a 77-56 victory over Montana State-Northern on Saturday. Carroll also improves to 9-4 in Frontier Conference play and owns a perfect 3-0 record over the Lights this season.
Northern falls to 6-6 on the season and 5-6 in league play with the loss after entering Saturday having won five of its last seven games.
“I thought we shot the ball well and defended well, so obviously those are two good barometers for a win,” Saints head coach Kurt Paulson said. “I thought the kids really played hard on defense. Northern has some really good players, [but] they defended them well and held them in the 50’s, so that was a big accomplishment.”
Staked to a 13-point lead with 16:32 left in the second half, it looked like the Lights would make a run at Carroll. Following a technical foul issued to junior Jovan Sljivancanin, Northern reeled off an 11-4 run to cut the Saints’ lead to 47-41 with just over 12 minutes to play.
Sophomore Jonny Hillman, who got the start on Saturday, responded by pulling down a defensive rebound and knocking down a 3-pointer to stretch Carroll’s lead back to nine points.
“That was good by him,” Paulson said. “He makes our team better now that he’s back. Depth and toughness and shot-making, he’s a threat. So we’re glad he’s back.”
By the 3:31 mark of the second half, Carroll held a commanding 67-50 advantage and was able to find some playing time for its reserves late.
While the Saints managed 77 points on 49 percent shooting, they held Northern to 16 points below its season average and allowed the Lights to shoot just 21.4 percent from 3-point range. Carroll shot better than 56 percent from long-range as the Saints out-rebounded Northern by 15 and turned the Lights’ eight turnovers into 10 points.
Sljivancanin knocked down two of Carroll’s nine 3-pointers on the afternoon and finished with 30 points on 13-for-21 shooting. The Saints’ leading scorer on the season also pulled down nine rebounds and dished out three assists.
“He was really aggressive,” Paulson said. “Right before halftime, he got one kind of length of the court and that got him going. He played well.”
For Sljivancanin, Saturday represented his second 30-point performance of the season as he took advantage of some quality looks in the painted area.
As for Hillman, who helped turn the tide in the second half, he finished with four points and four rebounds, and held up well on the defensive end of the court. Sophomores Dennis Flowers III and Ifeanyi Okeke finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while junior Shamrock Campbell chipped in eight points in the win.
Northern shot 42 percent from the field on Saturday, but its two leading scorers entering the game in seniors David Harris and Mascio McCadney mustered just a 34.8 percent (8-for-23) effort from the field. A week after scoring a combined 52 points against Providence, that duo was held to just 18 points in the loss and finished the game without a made 3-point basket.
“It just comes down to playing hard on defense and sharing it on offense,” Paulson said. “It really doesn’t matter what I’m running offensively. We could run anything, and if the guys share the ball and move it, we’re going to usually have some success. That’s the formula. Defensively just keep playing super hard and covering for each other. You see lots of good chemistry on the defensive end right now.”
McCadney scored 10 of those points, while junior Jomel Boyd paced the Lights with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Junior Aaron Collins also broke into double figures for Northern with 10 points on the afternoon.
Carroll will look to complete the regular season sweep over Northern on Sunday inside the PE Center. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.