(Photo courtesy MSU Billings)


BILLINGS, Mont.  – After facing three Montana schools last week, the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team (7-3, 0-2 GNAC) will jump back into Great Northwest Athletic Conference competition as they host Central Washington University (4-4, 0-2 GNAC) on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The ‘Jackets will then travel to Hawaii as they face three island-opponents in the University of Hawaii at Hilo (3-4, 2-0 PacWest), Chaminade University (5-4, 1-2 PacWest) and University of Hawaii Pacific (5-4, 2-1 PacWest).

It is MSUB’s first trip to Hawaii since the 2014-15 season when the Yellowjackets went 1-2 with a win over Ottawa University (Kan.) and losses to Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific.  Kendall Denham and Jordan Perry each made the trip as redshirt-freshmen that season.

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LAST TIME OUT: The Yellowjackets used a strong second half against Montana Tech last Wednesday as they outscored the Orediggers 47-25 in the final 20 minutes of action. Junior forward Sven Jeuschede scored a career-high 20 points in the win followed by Zack Rollins’ 16. Denham recorded a career-best seven steals in the game as the ‘Jackets forced 17 turnovers in the second half.

On Friday, Jeuschede again led the ‘Jackets with 20 points in an 85-74 victory over the University of Providence. Zharon Richmond recorded his first collegiate start in the game and paired 12 points with a season-high eight rebounds during 27 minutes of action. Perry had a strong showing with 10 points as MSUB had six players score double-digits.

To cap-off the weekend, MSUB matched up with Rocky Mountain College for the ‘Jackets’ third game in four nights. Jeuschede set another career-high with 28 points in the contest as the Yellowjackets fell 95-87. It is the only loss for the ‘Jackets in Alterowitz Gym so far this season after MSUB started a perfect 5-0 at home.


 JEUSCHEDE’S CAREEER WEEK: Jeuschede was named the GNAC Player of the Week after scoring 68 points while shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and making 15 3-pointers. He started the week by setting his career-best in scoring with 20 points on Wednesday and followed with two more 20-point performances culminating in a 28 point night against Rocky on Saturday.

Coming into the season the junior forward had six games in which he had scored 10-or-more points, he has now recorded four such games in a row. His previous largest scoring output during a three-game stretch came last season when he totaled 39 points from Dec. 10-31, in games against Rocky, Simon Fraser and Western Washington.

STEALING A SPOT IN THE TOP-15: In the win over Montana Tech, Denham recorded a career-high seven steals. The senior point guard leads the Yellowjackets with 15 steals this season and now ranks 13th in program history with 87 swipes in his career. He is sixth in the conference averaging 1.5 steals per game after totaling 30 steals last season.

At his current rate, Denham could finish the season with nearly 40 steals which would move him into the top-10 at MSUB. Currently, head coach Jamie Stevens holds the school record with 167 steals during his playing career for the ‘Jackets.

MOVING UP THE BLOCK CHARTS: Fellow senior Kamal Tall has made his way into the top-15 for his prolific blocking ability. The ‘Jackets’ big now has 31 blocks in his career at MSUB which is tied for 14th in school history. He has five rejections this year after denying 25 shots a season ago which is the 16th best single season total in MSUB history.

FRESHMAN ON THE BLOCK: While injuries have thrust freshman Zharon Richmond into the starting lineup, the 6-foot-5-inch forward has shown tremendous versatility for the ‘Jackets playing both on the wing and in the block. Possibly his greatest talent so far this season has been his ability to block shots. Richmond leads the team with 17 blocks this season and is just three swats away from joining MSUB’s single-season top-20.

In Friday’s contest against Providence, the freshman reject three shot attempts in just one possession. Twice this season Richmond has recorded four blocks in a single game and he has a total of five games with multiple blocks this season. He ranks fifth in the GNAC for blocks and 47th nationally.

FREQUENT FLYERS: The Yellowjackets are facing the final week of an astonishing stretch of travel and competition. Starting with their flight to Alaska and ending with their return home from Hawaii, the team will have played nine games in 20 days while flying roughly 11,415.74 miles, just under half of the circumference of the Earth (24,901 miles). During that time they will have completed finals and played their first three conference games while visiting two territories outside of the contiguous United States. During the remainder of the season the Yellowjackets will travel approximately 5,500.12 miles over two months.

NOT A MINUTE TO SPARE: Rollins, Denham and Jeuschede all average over 27 minutes a game for the Yellowjackets with Richmond and Tall being the only other active players averaging more than 20 minutes per contest. With the loss of two guards, the ‘Jackets are down to 10 active players. Kobe Terashima saw the largest minutes bump as he played 26 or more minutes in each of the games last week. The freshman point guard is leading the ‘Jackets in assists and ranks fourth in the conference in assists-to-turnover ratio. Perry also saw more time as he stayed on the floor for 16 minutes against Providence and Rocky. The senior scored a season-best 10 points against Providence and recorded six rebounds and five points in the game against Rocky.

PACKING WEST: The Yellowjackets used to frequent Hawaii in the early 2000’s as MSUB played 30 games on the islands from 2000-05 against Hilo, Pacific, Chaminade and BYU Hawaii. The ‘Jackets have winning records against all three of their 2017 opponents 17-15 (Hilo), 10-7 (Pacific) and 20-13 (Chaminade). The ‘Jackets last defeated a Hawaii team in 2012 with a 67-61 win over the Vulcans. MSUB was a member of the old PacWest conference before moving to the Heartland Conference and eventually joining the GNAC.

Central Washington University Wildcats

Thursday, December 14 | 7 PM | Billings, MT

2017-18 Record: 4-4 (0-2 GNAC)

Head Coach: Greg Sparling (22nd Season)

2016-17 Record: 14-12 (9-11 GNAC), T-6th Place

Roster | Stats

 The Wildcats are coming off of a 118-67 victory over Langara College last week. Prior to that, Central got off to an 0-2 start in GNAC play with home losses to Saint Martin’s (80-75) and Seattle Pacific University (84-83). CWU’s two other losses came to Cal State San Bernardino and Concordia University (Calif.) in neutral site contests earlier in the season. They earned wins over Monterey Bay, Hawaii Hilo and Walla Walla to bring their record to an even 4-4.

Freshman guard Kahlil Shabazz leads the Wildcats in scoring and ranks fifth in the GNAC with 17.3 points per game. Shabazz is second in the conference with 2.9 steals per contest leading a team that forces the third most turnovers in the GNAC. CWU shoots 37.9 percent from beyond the arc while allowing opponents to hit 38.2 percent of shots from long range.

Fuquan Niles is a physical presence inside for Central Washington, the 6-foot-11-inch, 258-pound senior leads the team with eight rebounds per game and has rejected 25 shots in eight games ranking seventh nationally.

Greg Sparling is in his 22nd season with the Wildcats and is currently the programs third winningest coach. He has won five conference titles and five conference coach of the year awards during his time in Ellensberg, Wash. He played for the Wildcats from 1989-93 and remained on the staff as an assistant before landing the head job in 1995. He has won 375 games at the head of Central’s men’s basketball program.

University of Hawaii at Hilo Vulcans

Sunday, December 17 | 8 PM (Hawaii) | Honolulu, HI

2017-18 Record: 3-4 (2-0 PacWest)

Head Coach: G.E. Coleman (5th Season)

2016-17 Record: 10-16 (8-12 PacWest), 9th Place

Roster | Stats

 The Vulcans are currently on a two game winning streak with wins over Biola University (80-55) and Concordia University (Calif.) 90-84 in Hawaii. Since the pair of wins, Hilo traveled to Manoa, Hawaii for an exhibition against the University of Hawaii in which they lost 82-64.

The Vulcans have played five GNAC opponents so far this season going 1-4. Hilo defeated Western Washington 80-76 in Bellingham, Wash. after taking a season opening loss 87-75 against Simon Fraser. They continued their Washington road trip in Lacey with an 87-74 loss to Saint Martin’s and finished with a pair of losses in Seattle to Central Washington (84-79) and Seattle Pacific (90-59).

Senior point guard Riley Callaghan leads Hilo with 17.4 points per game and 3.9 assists. Another senior guard, Trey Ingram is second on the team with 16.1 points per game. Both players have shot more than 50 percent of their shots beyond the arc combining to shoot 40-for-92 (43.4 percent) from deep.

Randan Berinobis leads Hilo in rebounding from the guard position as the Vulcans have started four guards in each of their seven games. Denhym Brooke and Devin Johnson have alternated starts in the post and average 5.7 and 5.6 rebounds respectively.

G.E. Coleman is entering his fifth season at the head of Hawaii Hilo’s program. Previously he spent 11 years on Greg Sparling’s staff at Central Washington after getting his start as an assistant at Eastern Washington University.

 Chaminade University Silverswords

Monday, December 18 | 7 PM (Hawaii) | Honolulu, HI

2017-18 Record: 5-4 (1-2 PacWest)

Head Coach: Eric Bovaird (7th Season)

2016-17 Record: 18-11 (13-7 PacWest), 4th Place

Roster | Stats

 Chaminade has faced a rigorous schedule to start their season and boast wins over the University of California, Cal Baptist, Cal State Dominguez Hills, University of Alaska and Alaska Anchorage. Two of their four losses came against Division I powers Notre Dame and Michigan in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. The Silverswords lost their most recent game to Hawaii Pacific 102-82, and also dropped an 80-75 decision to Concordia (Calif.).

Junior Erik Scheive leads the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game while shooting 46.4 percent from three and 58.7 percent from the field. He is third on the team with six boards per contests. Scheive joined the Silverswords after playing at Yuba College the past two season.

Brett Reed is Chaminade’s leading force inside while averaging 9.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He posted an impressive 17 point, 14 rebound performance in the loss to Concordia (Calif.) earlier in the season.

Eric Bovaird is in his seventh year with the Silverswords after making the move from West Virginia where he was an assistant at West Liberty. Bovaird has led Chaminade to winning records in three of his six season and a PacWest title in 2013.

 University of Hawaii Pacific Sharks

Tuesday, December 19 | 3 PM (Hawaii) | Kaneohe, HI

2017-18 Record: 5-4 (2-1 PacWest)

Head Coach: Darren Vonderbruegge (10th Season)

2016-17 Record: 29-3, (18-2 PacWest), 1st Place

Roster | Stats

 The University of Hawaii Pacific is coming off of a three loss season that ended in the Division II West Region Tournament with a three-point loss to Chico State. The Sharks have already surpassed their loss total from last season as they try to replace their top-three scorers from a year ago.

The Sharks won their most recent game 102-82 over Chaminade. They also have wins over Biola, Alaska Anchorage, Corban and New Hope Christian.  All four of their losses have come to Division II opponents starting with Alaska 97-90 and followed by Cal State Dominguez Hills, Adams State and Concordia (Calif.).

Niksha Federico, a transfer from San Diego State, is ninth in the nation in scoring as he paces the Sharks with 24.6 points per game. He has taken 149 shots this season with 73 of them coming from beyond the arc. He also leads the team with 11.1 rebounds per game which is 12th in the nation. Federico has scored 20 or more points in the past eight games while recording five double-doubles.

Jonathan Jansssen fills the sharp-shooter role for Hawaii Pacific making 51.1 percent of his 3-point attempts translating to 23 makes on 45 shots from deep. In the loss to Adams State Janssen hit a season-high five threes on eight attempts.

Darren Vorderbrugge is in his 10th season as the head coach for Hawaii Pacific after spending two seasons as an assistant. After last season’s historic 29-3 season, Vorderbrugge was named the Clarence Gaines National Coach of the Year by College Insider. He is the winningest coach in the state of Hawaii with a record of 134-122 during his time with the Sharks. He has led Pacific to winning season in each of the past four season after starting his tenure with five straight years below .500.