(Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

MSUB Athletics

BILLINGS – Closing a four-game home stand this week, the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team hosts a pair of Great Northwest Athletic Conference games at Alterowitz Gym over Hall of Fame Weekend.

Entering the week in a four-way tie for second place in the GNAC standings at 4-2, MSUB remains among conference leaders and holds an overall record of 9-5. The Yellowjackets host the University of Alaska Anchorage (10-4, 4-2 GNAC) on Thursday night, before welcoming the University of Alaska (7-8, 2-4) on Saturday.

Each game this week will be the back end of a doubleheader with the Yellowjacket women’s team, and will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday’s doubleheader will be featured live on ESPN Radio 910 KBLG in Billings, and online at www.espn910.com. All games this weekend will feature live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics, available through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.

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“Both of these teams are talented, experienced, and well-coached,” commented MSUB head coach Jamie Stevens on his squad’s upcoming opponents. “We are going to have to play well, because we know they are going to be ready for us.”

MSUB will also be partnering with the Yellowjacket Emergency Pantry for Thursday’s doubleheader, which is an on-campus emergency food pantry designed to provide students with food and hygiene supplies, connect students to community and campus resources, and identify and address any hunger and food insecurities that may exist among the student population at MSU Billings. Fans who bring a donation item will be admitted to the games at a special discounted price of $2. Regular admission is $8 for the general public, $4 for seniors, students in grades 7-through-12, and MSUB faculty and staff, and free for all MSUB students and children in grades six and under.

The ‘Jackets are coming off of a split at home last week, losing to Central Washington University 81-77 last Thursday before rallying to beat Northwest Nazarene University 77-72 on Saturday. MSUB has now won five of its last six games overall, and is 3-3 in games played at Alterowitz Gym this year.

PRESTO! Foul trouble inhibited Preston Beverly during the game against the Crusaders, but the sophomore put on a show down the stretch when the team needed a boost. With the ‘Jackets leading 60-58 and 3:15 minutes left in regulation, the preseason all-GNAC pick scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds the rest of the way to help ensure the victory.

The 18-point, 13-rebound double-double was Beverly’s third of the season, and 10th in his young career as a Yellowjacket. Since the beginning of Beverly’s career in the GNAC, only UAA’s Corey Hammell (18) has more double-doubles than the reigning GNAC Freshman of the Year.

GNAC Men’s Basketball Double-Doubles 2015-17
Rank Name School Number
1. Corey Hammell Alaska Anchorage 18
2. Preston Beverly
MSU Billings 10
3. Drew Martin Concordia 8
Suki Wiggs Alaska Anchorage 8
Travante Williams Alaska 8
6. Gilles Dierickx Seattle Pacific 6
Bryce Leavitt Seattle Pacific 6
Tony Miller Seattle Pacific 6
Tanner Omlid Western Oregon 6
Coleman Wooten Seattle Pacific 6

MATTHEWS’ MOTOR: Scoring 37 more points last week, senior Marc Matthews continued what has become the peak stretch of his career. He has scored 20 or more points in eight games this season, and is averaging 21.4 points since his current seven-game double-figure scoring streak began on Dec. 3.

With an overall average of 16.2 points per game, Matthews remains No. 10 in the GNAC in scoring and No. 2 in 3-point field goals made with 3.3 per game (46 total). The senior moved to No. 19 in MSUB history with 1,083 career points, and is No. 9 in 3-point field goals made with 182.

DENHAM UPPING HIS GAME: Junior guard Kendall Denham scored 10 points against the Crusaders, and is averaging 11 per game over the last two weeks. Against the Wildcats last week, he reached his season high with six rebounds, and chipped in three assists and three steals.

TALL KEEPS ‘JACKETS CENTERED: Starting all 14 games as the team’s big man, junior Kamal Tall posted his first-ever multi-steal game against the Wildcats. He has provided a consistent boost throughout the year, averaging 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game. “This is a contest that will help us measure where we are at,” Tall commented on the upcoming game against the Seawolves Thursday. “It won’t be easy, but we know we can win if everyone is dialed in and ready to go.”

BIG NIGHT FOR CINCO: Knocking down 8 of 15 shots from the field, freshman guard Cinco Durr reached his season high with 21 points in 22 minutes against Central Washington Thursday. He followed with nine points on Saturday, and came through with a season-best four rebounds in the win for the ‘Jackets.

ALCORN EFFECTIVE: After missing seven games with an injury, sophomore Cade Alcorn had his most positive showing of the year against the Wildcats. Alcorn scored five points in 14 minutes, and figures to provide further depth off the bench for MSUB as the season wears on.

TEAM RANKS: The ‘Jackets continue to rank in the upper half of the league in scoring, averaging 83.7 points per game and allowing 77.6 for a margin of plus-6.1 (fourth). MSUB is also second in free-throw shooting at 76.7 percent, seventh in field-goal percentage at 45.6 percent, and fifth in 3-point shooting at 37.6 percent. MSUB is fifth in rebounding margin at plus-3.1, and averages the second-most offensive rebounds per game with 12.9.

Thursday, January 12 – University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves – 7:30 PM
Alterowitz Gym | Billings, MT | ESPN Radio 910 KBLG
2016-17 Record: 10-4, 4-2 GNAC
Head Coach: Rusty Osborne, 12th Season
2015-16 Record: 21-11, 14-6 GNAC (4th)

A 91-84 loss at Western Washington last Saturday snapped a five-game winning streak for the Seawolves, who will host the University of Alaska Tuesday night before traveling to Billings for Thursday’s game against the ‘Jackets. The Seawolves swept Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin’s at home and beat Simon Fraser on the road leading up to the loss against the Vikings.

Led by GNAC preseason player of the year Suki Wiggs, UAA couples 81.4 points per game offensively with a league-best 62.2 points allowed defensively for the top scoring margin in the GNAC at plus-19.1. Wiggs ranks second in the conference with 23.2 points per game, and is also averaging 4.9 rebounds in 31.6 minutes. The senior is shooting 46.7 percent from the floor, and 39.3 percent from 3-point range.

Hammell leads the GNAC with 10.9 rebounds per game to go along with 8.2 points, as he accounts for nearly 25 percent of his team’s rebounds. Spencer Svejcar and Diante Mitchell are the other top scorers for the Seawolves, averaging 13.6 and 10.9 points per game, respectively. Svejcar is one of the GNAC’s elite 3-point shooters, hitting at a clip of 46.4 percent from beyond the arc.

First-year starter Connor Devine is another top player, averaging 9.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 23.2 minutes.

The Seawolves are the top rebounding team in the nation, with an NCAA Division II-best margin of plus-14.4.

The Series: UAA holds a 42-30 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to the 1977-78 season. The Yellowjackets hold a strong 23-10 advantage in games played at Alterowitz Gym, but UAA has won three of the last four meetings between the teams.

Last Time Out: Each team won at home last season, with UAA topping MSUB 81-61 in Anchorage and the ‘Jackets returning the favor with a 90-71 win at home. Matthews led MSUB with 17 points in the road loss, while Beverly put up a 25-point, 13-rebound double-double at home.

Saturday, January 14 – University of Alaska Nanooks – 7:30 PM
Alterowitz Gym | Billings, MT
2016-17 Record: 7-8, 2-4 GNAC
Head Coach: Mick Durham, 5th Season
2015-16 Record: 22-8, 15-5 GNAC (2nd)

Alaska has lost three of its last four games, but snapped a three-game skid with an 88-83 win over Simon Fraser last Saturday. The Nanooks will challenge their in-state partner on Tuesday night before taking on the ‘Jackets Saturday.

Brandon Davis and Bangaly Kaba are the top scorers for UAF, as both average upwards of 13.0 points per game. Davis also leads the team in 3-point shooting at 37.3 percent, and is a strong foul shooter at 81.4 percent.

Kaba is the squad’s leading rebounder with 6.1 per game, and holds a solid field-goal percentage of 49.3. Zach Pederson (11.3 ppg), and Nahjee Matlock (10.6 ppg) are the other leading scorers for the Nanooks, and the latter leads the team with 78 assists.

UAF narrowly outscores its opponents (75.9-73.3), but gets outrebounded 38.6-35.1. The Nanooks are shooting 44.1 percent overall, 30.3 percent from the 3-point line, and 73.5 percent from the foul line.

The Series: MSUB holds a 40-26 lead in the all-time series between the teams, and is a dominant 27-5 at home. The Nanooks however have won three in-a-row and seven of the last eight games between the two.

Last Time Out: Matthews had 12 points and six boards in last year’s road loss, as MSUB fell 69-58 exactly one year before this coming Saturday’s game. In the 66-61 loss at home last February, Matthews contributed 14 points and Beverly led all ‘Jackets with eight rebounds.