(Photo courtesy MSU Billings)

(MSU Billings release)

BILLINGS – Wednesday will start a four-game home stand for the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team (5-2, 0-2 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) as they host the Montana Tech University Orediggers (5-5, 0-2 Frontier Conference) at 7 p.m.

This weekend, MSUB will host a pair of doubleheaders as both the men and the women host the University of Providence and Rocky Mountain College. The men will tip-off EMC Throwback Weekend on Friday at 5:30 against the University of Providence Argos (7-4, 1-1 Frontier) with the women’s contest against Rocky to follow. On Saturday, it will be the women who take the floor at 5:30 against the Argos while the men face Rocky (6-3, 0-2 Frontier) in the nightcap.

“This is an important week for us,” head coach Jamie Stevens said. “We are going to be able to really work on things in game situations and whenever we are facing Montana schools it is important for us to have success. I’d like to see us get better and maybe see some different lineups on the floor as we get ready for our 21 Division II game and final 18 GNAC games.”

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LAST TIME OUT: The Yellowjackets will look to bounce back after a pair of tough losses in Alaska last week as MSUB opened conference play with their longest road trip of the season. Last Thursday, MSUB fell 74-62 in a defensive struggle against the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kendall Denham scored 20 points in the GNAC opener including 15 in the second half.

They followed with an 88-80 loss to the University of Alaska on Saturday in Fairbanks. Zack Rollins and Tyler Green scored 19 and 18 respectively and combined for seven of the teams’ 12 three pointers made in the contest. Nineteen MSUB turnovers led to 23 points for the Nanooks and sent the ‘Jackets on their way to a 0-2 start in conference.

“We had a majority of our minutes played by guys who were getting introduced to GNAC last week,” Steven noted of his new look roster. “When you go on the road in our conference you have to be tough and fight through some adversity that caught up to us in both games. We had some lulls that allowed teams to go on runs against us and we turned the ball over too much to be successful against good teams.”

NUMBERS AND NOTES

EVERY MINUTE COUNTS: Newcomers Rollins and Green lead the Yellowjackets after spending 193 minutes a piece on the floor through the first seven games. In last week’s conference matchups, it was Sven Jeuschede with two 35 minute performances that led all ‘Jackets followed by Denham with an average of 31.5 minutes. Kamal Tall put in 50 minutes of work in the post over the weekend and is fourth on the team with 156 minutes.

STARTING A TREND: The Yellowjackets are one of three GNAC teams to start with the same lineup in each of their games this season. In all seven games Denham, Tall, Rollins, Green and Jeuschede have been the first unit on the floor. Seattle Pacific and Western Washington are the only other conference squads to start the same five in each game this season. Freshmen Zharon Richmond and Kobe Terashima along with Daniel Shedden are the only other Yellowjackets to appear in every game this season.

DEFENSE STILL DOMINANT: After a fast start to the season, the Yellowjackets defense continues to impress as they are holding opponents to just 26.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc, which ranks sixth in the nation. In their first GNAC contest, the defense limited Anchorage to 22.2 percent from deep with the Seawolves making 2 of 9 from deep. MSUB has the third best scoring defense in the league and the second best field goal percentage defense with opponents making just 39.6 percent of shots.

ROLLINS’ ROLE: As the Yellowjackets continue to develop their team chemistry, Zack Rollins has filled a variety of roles early in the season. The junior ranks in the GNAC top-20 in seven statistical categories while leading the ‘Jackets in rebounding. The forward’s 12.9 points per game trails only Green and he is second on the team with eight blocks this season. In five of the seven games so far, Rollins has scored 10 or more points while contributing six or more rebounds. He has tallied an assist in five straight games and ranks third on the team with 19 dimes this season.

SENIOR SURGE: After averaging just over eight points a game the past two seasons, fifth-year senior Denham is off to a hot start averaging 11.1 points per game. He has scored 10 or more points in the past four game, the longest such stretch of his career. Throughout the streak, Denham has shot 56.7 percent from the field and has made 12 of 22 from deep. He has also continued to move the ball well averaging 4.75 assists per game over the stretch, higher than his 3.14 career average.

CONFERENCE CAPSULE: Northwest Nazarene, Western Washington and Alaska Anchorage all had a perfect 2-0 start in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play last week. The Vikings scored the biggest win of the early season with an 85-58 win over No. 13 Western Oregon. Concordia and Central Washington are winless thus far in GNAC play while five conference members are an even 1-1.

Montana Tech University Orediggers
Wednesday, December 6 | 7 PM | Billings, MT
2017-18 Record: 5-5, 0-2 Frontier Conference
Head Coach: Adam Hiatt (2nd Season)
2016-17 Record: 7-21, 1-16 Frontier Conference

Montana Tech enters Wednesdays contest after suffering a pair of conference losses to University of Montana Western and Lewis and Clark State College last week. The Orediggers are 4-1 in Butte this season while carrying a 1-4 record on the road.

It will be the 115th meeting between the schools with the ‘Jackets holding a 70-44 advantage all time including a 40-17 record in Billings over the Diggers. The two teams played each other last season with the ‘Jackets earning a 58-44 win in an exhibition.

MTT earned their last win over Salish Kootenai College 121-68 on November 21, the same night that the Yellowjackets defeat Chadron State College for their most recent win.

John Chapman is Tech’s leading scorer on the season as the senior guard from Frenchtown, Mont. averages 14.5 points per game. Freshman Nick Fitts paces the Diggers from deep, hitting 2.6 three per game from beyond the arc and has made 14 three in the past three game while seeing a significant minutes increase. As a team, MTT ranks third in the Frontier Conference for scoring defense, holding opponents to 69.4 points per game.

Adam Hiatt enters his second year at the head of the Montana Tech program. A two time NAIA All-American, Hiatt has more than a decade of Frontier Conference experience as a player and a coach. He finished his collegiate career at Westminster College before starting his coaching career as an assistant for the Griffins.

University of Providence Argos
Friday, December 8 | 5:30 PM | Billings, MT
2017-18 Record: 7-4, 1-1 Frontier Conference
Head Coach: Anthony Owens (4th Season)
2016-17 Record: 12-18, 4-14 Frontier Conference

Last time out the Argos were handed an 86-76 loss by the Carroll College Saints in Great Falls, Mont. The loss snapped a three game winning streak for the Argos as they were coming off of victories over Valley City State University, Salish Kootenai College and Rocky Mountain College. Providence is an even 3-3 at home and 1-1 on the road but have been a perfect 3-0 in neutral contests.

Formerly the University of Great Fall, the Argos have lost the past eight contests against the ‘Jackets dating back to 1984. In their last meeting, the Argos pulled off a double-overtime 89-84 win over the ‘Jackets in 2014.

The Argos are putting up 84.46 points per game this season and are led by Steven Daho-Clark’s 14.09 scoring average. They lead the conference with 15.27 offensive rebounds per game but are second to last with a 27.27 average on the defensive glass. Daho-Clark is the conference’s top rebounder averaging nearly nine (8.91) boards a game.

After spending five seasons as an assistant for the Portland State University Vikings, Anthony Owens took over the Argos program in 2014. In his first season he led Providence to the playoffs with a 17-12 record. In the past two seasons Providence has won 13 and 12 games while the team has finished sixth in year under Owens.

Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears
Saturday, December 9 | 7 P.M. | Billings, MT
2017-18 Record: 6-3, 0-2 Frontier Conference
Head Coach: Bill Dreikosen (17th Season)
2016-17 Record: 16-15, 9-9 Frontier Conference

Rocky played a tightly contested exhibition against the Yellowjackets earlier this season at the Fortin Center as MSUB earned an 82-75 win. The Battlin’ Bears are currently on a three game slide after opening the season with a six-game winning streak.

This is the 172nd installment in the Billings basketball saga with MSUB holding a 90-81 advantage. The teams split a pair of meetings last season with both teams winning in their home gym.

Much like the ‘Jackets, Rocky’s defense has led the way early in the season as they have held opponents to 39.5 percent shooting from the field in their first nine games. On offense, the Bears average 96.56 points per game while holding opponents to just a 72.44 scoring clip.

Rocky has three of the top-10 scorers in the Frontier Conference with Jared Samuelson leading the Bears with 16.38 points per game. Austin Payne and Latrelle Franklin each add 15 points per contest for RMC while Payne shoots a team-best 60 percent from the field.

Head coach Bill Dreikosen is in his 17th season with the program and was the conference’s coach of the year in 2014. He led the Battlin’ Bears to a NAIA National Championship in the 2008-09 season. RMC has made six national tournament appearances during Dreikosen’s tenure.

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