PORTLAND, Ore. – Scoring 100 points in consecutive games for the first time in a decade.
Winning both games in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference road trip for the first time in program history.
A first-ever win in Bellingham, Wash., at Western Washington University, and knocking off the No. 19 team in the country at that.
The list of recent accomplishments by the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team goes on, but a 107-66 win over Simon Fraser University and a 100-93 triumph over WWU last week were enough to earn the Yellowjackets the GNAC Team of the Week award announced by the conference office on Monday.
“This is a nice honor, and the guys had a good solid week on the road,” said MSUB head coach Jamie Stevens, whose team won twice despite 19 days in between games over the holiday break. “At this point, the main thing is to build from it and to keep getting better. We are fully focused now on the next week.”
The historic run for MSUB started with senior Marc Matthews reaching 1,000 career points on his very first bucket, and ended when he finished the week 48 points later in a performance good enough to earn him his second GNAC Player of the Week award of the season.
Sophomore Preston Beverly excelled with 22 points against the Clan on Thursday, before adding 15 more and a career-best five assists in the win over the Vikings. Exactly one year after suffering a season-ending knee injury against WWU, senior Jace Anderson nailed 5 of 9 threes and put up 18 points in the victory.
Junior guard Kendall Denham had a quiet 17-point, 10-assist double-double against SFU, and freshman guard Cinco Durr matched his personal best with 15 points. Sophomore Sven Jeuschede also had a career day against the Clan, making 5 of 5 shots from the field, 3 of 3 from long range, and 4 of 4 from the foul line for an unprecedented 17 points.
The ‘Jackets have played well away from home all year with a record of 6-2, and the most recent victories were highlighted by a stellar collective offensive performance. MSUB made 68 of 126 shots from the floor (53.9 percent), 28 of 55 shots from 3-point range (50.9 percent), and 46 of 50 free throws (92.0 percent). The ‘Jackets also posted their two highest steals totals of the year with 12 against SFU and nine against WWU, blocked 14 total shots, and out-rebounded the opposition 71-69.
While the wins alone were enough to lift MSUB (8-4, 3-1 GNAC) into a three-way tie for first place in the GNAC standings, perhaps the historical significance of the road trip is what stands out most.
When the final buzzer sounded against the Vikings, the ‘Jackets put to rest a winless 0-12 mark in games played at WWU. Denham iced the game with a pair of final free throws, and in doing so pushed the score to 100 to mark the first time MSUB reached the century mark in consecutive games since a 136-101 win over St. Edward’s on Jan. 28, 2006 and a 128-82 win over Lincoln University six days later.
Until last week, the accomplishment of winning both games in a conference road trip was one that no Yellowjacket team had ever mustered since joining the highly-competitive GNAC 10 seasons ago. Additionally, Saturday marked the first win for MSUB over a ranked opponent since a dramatic 72-70 win against No. 13 Seattle Pacific University on Feb. 23, 2014 in Seattle.
“The GNAC is a great league, and for this to be the first road sweep for us in 10 seasons is a pretty big deal for the guys,” Stevens commented after Saturday’s win.
The season outlook began to look bleak for MSUB after a 54-50 loss to Cal State East Bay at home on Nov. 19, as the ‘Jackets shot just 33.3 percent from the field, 23.8 percent from long range, and 60.0 percent from the foul line. The team had been picked to finish seventh in the GNAC preseason coaches’ poll, and was off to a rocky 1-3 start to the year. Since posting their season low in points, MSUB has rallied to emerge the winner in seven of its last eight games thanks in large part to averaging 91.1 points per game during that time span. It is the hottest streak the program has been on since winning seven games in-a-row and 10 of 11 from Jan. 4-Feb. 4, 2006.
The Yellowjackets will look to keep their foot on the gas with four consecutive home games against conference opponents over the next two weeks. MSUB welcomes Central Washington University to Alterowitz Gym on Thursday evening for a 7 p.m. tipoff, before hosting Northwest Nazarene University on Saturday at 7 p.m.