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Cunningham lifts MSU Billings women, Green sparks men in road wins

Taylor Cunningham MSUB
Posted at 4:25 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 21:37:10-05

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Stunning the home crowd with 1.6 seconds on the scoreboard, Taylor Cunningham drained the game winning 3-point shot to lift Montana State University Billings over University of Alaska Fairbanks 70-68 at Alaska Airlines Court in Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball late Thursday night.

The Nanooks took a one-point lead with six ticks remaining on a layup by Jocelyn Gandara before Cunningham received a hurried pass from Jeanann Lemelin and connected from the right side of the arc for MSUB. In a last ditch effort, Brittany Richards took an off balance three-point shot for UAF at the buzzer but it clanked just left of the basket.

Taryn Shelley dominated in the post and finished with 27 points on 12 of 13 shooting. Shelley added seven rebounds, and three free throws to her team leading performance. Gandara marked 23 points and six boards for the Nanooks.

“That was an exciting win to say the least,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “I really liked the how we responded. We got down nine points in the fourth quarter but were able to claw our way back. Then Danielle (Zahn) made an important shot, which led to the chance for Taylor later on. On the final play, Jeanann did a good job attacking the middle of the court and then found Taylor for the game winner. Taylor is a tremendous senior leader for our team and we know we can count on her.”

The Yellowjackets (9-7, 4-3 GNAC) moved into a three-way tie for fourth place in the Great Northwest Athletic Standings and will try for their first road sweep of the season at No. 6 Alaska Anchorage (17-1, 7-0 GNAC) Saturday night. Alaska (6-11, 1-7 GNAC) lost its seventh game in a row and hosts Simon Fraser University (10-7, 5-2 GNAC) on Saturday. The Nanooks are still alone in last place.

The Yellowjackets were sluggish at the start, but managed a narrow halftime lead 36-34 after coming alive for 26 points in the second quarter. The Nanooks countered with a 9-4 run to take a 54-48 advantage with under two minutes to play in the third quarter. MSUB chiseled away a nine-point margin in the early stages of the fourth, cutting the deficit to one with 34 seconds on the clock.

Alanna Conwell drew a foul for UAF but missed both ensuing free throws, opening the door for Danielle Zahn’s jump shot with 24 seconds left. Gandara went to the rim with her right hand with six seconds left to give the Nanooks their last lead of the night. Cunningham then sealed victory for MSUB.

Shelley scored 27 points in 27 minutes for the Yellowjackets and fouled out with under a minute to play. TyLee Manuel surpassed her season high with 11 points and nine rebounds. Manuel went 4-for-4 from the field and added three free throws.

“I felt we did a good job of getting the ball inside to Taryn and TyLee all night,” said Woodin. “Even though we started the game slowly again, we played solid in the second quarter and I was proud of our players for finding a way to win. It wasn’t pretty. We had players out with injury and an opponent that deserves a lot of credit for how they played tonight. We just made one more play than them in the end.”

The Yellowjackets shot 44-percent (27-for-61) as a team and 20-percent (4-for-20) from beyond the arc. MSUB also recorded 32 rebounds, eight steals, and one block. Alaska Fairbanks shot 43-percent (27-for-63) and 23-percent (3-for-13) from 3-point range. The Nanooks grabbed 26 rebounds, had 18 steals and three blocks.

MSUB outscored UAF 20-12 in the fourth quarter to snatch the two-point victory.

The Yellowjackets play at Anchorage on Saturday.

MSUB's men erupted to defeat Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Saint Martin’s University Thursday night 96-67. Tyler Green scored a career high 38 points and tied the GNAC all-time record for three point shots in a game converting 12 of 17 attempts.

From one jaw dropping performance to another, Green was on fire after hitting his game winning hot against Central Washington University last weekend in Billings, Mont. Converting 13 of 18 shots total, Green is now tied for fourth place in MSUB history for three point shots made in a single game with hall of famers Reece Gilko, Markus Hallgrimson and Cameron Munoz, truly elite company in MSUB’s rich history.

Green’s previous game high was 34 points against Rocky Mountain College on December 8, 2018 in which he made a then career high eight three point shots.

Green made his first non-three point shot with five minutes remaining in the game, a little jumper from the elbow. Prior to that jumper, Green had carried out a barrage of three point shots inspiring confidence in his teammates and proving to be the catalyst for the game.

“When you have a guy on fire it becomes contagious,” said head coach Mick Durham. “I am very happy for Tyler. He works extremely hard and is very deserving of a game like this and the records that go with it. It was a good road win for our team. We talked about being solid on both ends of the floor which we executed and our rebounding was great.”

MSUB was ahead 13, 40-30, heading into halftime and then erupted for 53 points in the second on the way to their highest point output of the year. As a team, the ‘Jackets made 21 total three point shots which is tied for eighth place in MSUB history for single threes in a game.

Along with Green’s record breaking night, Stevie James scored a career high 16 points surpassing his previous total of 12 against Adams State University on November 30, 2019. Brendan Howard finished with 16 points as well and Zharon Richmond had a double-double of 11 points with 14 rebounds.

As a team, MSUB outscored SMU 53 to 37 in the second half. The ‘Jackets out rebounded the saints 45-34, forced 17 Saint Turnovers while only surrendering 11 and made 21 three point shots to SMU’s seven.

“We have a quick turnaround to face SPU,” commented Durham. “I hope the guys are excited to see how we stack up to SPU and it will be a good measuring stick for us.”

The Yellowjackets next face Seattle Pacific University which is undefeated in GNAC play and riding an 11 game win streak. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. MST from Seattle, WA.