(Press Release from MSU-Billings Athletic Department)
HONOLULU – Five double figure scorers emerged from the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball lineup Sunday night in the opening game of the Hoops in Hawaii Holiday Classic, as the Yellowjackets rolled to an 81-63 victory over the University of Hawaii Hilo at the Honolulu Convention Center.
MSUB (8-4) was red hot from the arc all night, shooting 60 percent (12-for-20) and hitting at a clip of 56.6 percent (30-for-53) overall from the field. Senior Kendell Denham led the way with a team-high 17 points, and Zack Rollins contributed 15 on 3-for-5 shooting from long range. Sven Jeuschede hit both of his threes and finished with 12 points, Zharon Richmond had 11, and Zack Lessinger had his top scoring game of the year with 10 points.
“Everybody contributed, and we guarded the 3-point line really well again,” said MSUB head coach Jamie Stevens. “We shared the ball with five guys in double figures, out-rebounded them, and if we can work on our turnovers we are really close to breaking out offensively.”
UHH led 4-2 on a layup by Devin Johnson in the beginning of the game, and it wound up being the Vulcans’ only lead of the night. A trey by Denham midway through the first gave the ‘Jackets their first double-digit lead of the game, up 20-10.
From there, the ‘Jackets continued to press forward offensively and their lead peaked at 14 points before a 36-26 halftime edge. UHH made just 1 of 7 threes in the opening half, a figure that didn’t improve over the final 20 minutes as the team finished the game 2-for-14 from behind the line.
Meanwhile, MSUB turned around a 3-for-9 mark from long range in the first half, and made a stellar 9 of 11 threes in the second to run away with the win. Back-to-back threes by Rollins and a three and a block from Richmond sparked an early push in the second half, as MSUB’s lead continued to hover around 12 points. Consecutive treys from Kobe Terashima, Rollins, and Jeuschede made it 65-47 with 10 minutes left to play, and UHH failed to get back into the game.
“Our big emphasis this week was toughness and pulling away,” said Denham after the game. “We wanted to be strong and tough, and getting a win in this first game sets up our confidence. We feel good about ourselves getting a win against a good team, and that will just build up this week.”
Denhym Brooke led the Vulcans with 18 points and three blocks, while Devin Johnson had 11 points and eight rebounds. UHH finished the night shooting 44.6 percent overall (25-for-56), and made 11 of 18 free throws (61.1 percent). The Yellowjackets enjoyed a 34-25 rebounding edge, and all 10 players had at least one rebound. Terashima led the team with five assists.
Denham’s last three of the night came with 4:23 left, and gave the ‘Jackets their largest lead up 22 points. It was the end of a dominant 10-minute stretch by MSUB, which out-scored UHH 31-15 to turn just a six-point edge into an insurmountable advantage.
“This is a good start, and we have two more tough road games this week,” Stevens said. “This is a great way to start this trip, and this week is all about this group getting better.”
THE BUZZ: Rollins was named the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 18-15 all-time against the Vulcans and is 1-0 in neutral-site contests…Richmond reached four blocks in a game for the fourth time this season, and the third time in his last four games…the true freshman has 15 blocks in his last four games and his total of 25 in 12 games is already tied for 16th most in MSUB single-season history.