(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – FuQuan Niles had 23 points and five rebounds for visiting Central Washington University, as the Wildcats capitalized on 28 Montana State University Billings turnovers on Thursday night at Alterowitz Gym in an 80-75 Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball win over the host Yellowjackets.
MSUB overcame the 28 giveaways that led to 28 CWU points and got as close as 74-72 with 58 seconds to play, but the Wildcats made all seven of their foul shots over the final 90 seconds to help seal the win. One of those free throws came on a three-point conversion by Niles, who had five points and three rebounds in the last 1:26.
“We shot the ball well tonight especially from 3-point range, but we can’t have 28 turnovers in a game,” said MSUB head coach Jamie Stevens. “We did well late in the game getting stops, but we just didn’t finish the possessions with a defensive rebound. We have three more games before Christmas to get better, and we will focus on that like we did last week.”
MSUB (7-4, 0-3 GNAC) made 8 of 18 treys (44.4 percent), and was led by Sven Jeuschede with his fourth-straight 20 point performance on 4 of 6 accuracy from long range. Daniel Shedden came within one point of his season high, as he finished with 14 and added five rebounds in an efficient 23 minutes. Zack Rollins had a dozen points, and Zharon Richmond chipped in 11 to go along with four blocks for the ‘Jackets.
The Wildcats (5-4, 1-2 GNAC) scored 56 of their points in the paint, as their perimeter game was a non-factor at 0-for-6 from the arc. It was the first time an MSUB team held its opponents without a trey in a game since Nov. 17, 2011 when Southern Utah went 0-for-5 from the arc in a 63-60 loss for MSUB.
Despite the lack of 3-point production, CWU found ways to score and shot 47.6 percent overall from the field (30-for-63). Sage Woodruff finished with 16 points, while Jawan Stepney had 12 and matched Niles with a team-high five boards. Malik Montoya, Marc Rodgers, and Coleman Sparling each had three steals as the ‘Cats posted their second-highest total of the year with 13 snags to disrupt the MSUB offense.
Nine straight points by Rollins late helped keep the game within reach, as his second trey down the stretch gave the Yellowjackets a last glimpse of hope down 78-75 with seven seconds left. Rodgers took care of business on the other end however, icing the game with two final foul shots.
The Wildcats had four offensive rebounds in the final three minutes of play, creating second-chance scoring opportunities that helped keep the lead in their hands.
Rollins converted a three-point play to make the deficit two points at 71-69 with two minutes left on the clock. Niles responded with a three-point play of his own after an offensive rebound however, summing up his dominant night under the basket for the visitors.
In a game that featured 52 total fouls, Shedden did most of his work early before fouling out midway through the second half. Seven straight points by the junior midway through the first helped the ‘Jackets keep pace, and he came through with a steal that led to an energizing fast-break dunk on the other end. His 12 first-half points helped the ‘Jackets to a 38-37 halftime advantage.
The second half belonged to Jeuschede, who made all four of his treys and scored 16 of his 20 points over the final 20 minutes. A pair of free throws by the reigning GNAC Player of the Week got the score to 62-58 with 6:30 to play, and Richmond followed with a block on the defensive end. The ‘Jackets missed their next four shots however, while the ‘Cats went on a 5-0 run for their largest lead of the night at 67-58 with 5:07 remaining.
Overall MSUB shot 47.9 percent from the field (23-for-48) and made 21 of 25 foul shots including a line of 9-for-10 from the line by Richmond. MSUB also out-rebounded CWU 29-25, and had seven blocks compared to the Wildcats’ three.
THE BUZZ: Shedden was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 6-18 all-time against CWU and is 3-9 in home games against the Wildcats…CWU has won seven of the last eight games in the series…Shedden’s season high is 15 points, on Nov. 14 against Yellowstone Christian…Jeuschede pushed his string of double-figure scoring to five games and reached 20 points for the fourth straight game…he has connected on 19 of his last 37 threes (51.4 percent)…Thursday was Jeuschede’s fourth-straight game leading the team in scoring…Thursday was the third time this season Richmond has reached four blocks in a game…Richmond’s 21 blocks this year are tied for 18th most in MSUB single-season history…MSUB’s 28 turnovers were the most in a game by a Yellowjacket team since 29 giveaways in a 103-85 loss to West Liberty on Dec. 16, 2006.
COMING UP: The ‘Jackets face a tough test in Hawaii with a travel day Friday and three games in three days starting Sunday at the Hoops in Hawaii Holiday Classic. MSUB plays the University of Hawaii-Hilo on Sunday at 8 p.m. Hawaii time, Chaminade University on Monday at 7 p.m. Hawaii time, and Hawaii Pacific University on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. Hawaii time.