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Half court shot sinks MSU Billings men in OT

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Posted at 7:34 AM, Feb 18, 2022

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – The Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team erased an 18-point deficit, forced overtime but fell 83-80 to Western Washington when D’Angelo Minnis stepped into a half-court buzzer-beater to beat the 'Jackets in Alterowitz Gym on Thursday.

“It was a tough way to lose after battling back in the second half and having a lead in overtime,” MSUB head coach Mick Durham said. “We really struggled with Western Washington’s pressure in the first half, but we kept battling. It was a crazy ending.”

The Yellowjackets (12-12, 8-6 GNAC) were led by Carrington Wiggins’ 31 points – including four points in the final two minutes of regulation to force overtime, then the first five points to open overtime. Senior guard Brent Finn helped spearhead the comeback and got most of his 13 points late in the second half, and fellow senior Damen Thacker added 14 points despite hampered by foul trouble.

The Vikings (12-12, 6-8 GNAC) led by as many as 18 points and trailed by five until they went on an 8-0 run in the final 13 seconds to win.

Bilal Shabazz opened the scoring for MSUB in the first half, Carrington Wiggins made his first field goal of the night and Nicholas Sebastiao’s three helped the Yellowjackets trade baskets with the Vikings early on. An 11-0 run put MSUB behind 19-7 with 13:14 to go, yet the Vikings countered MSUB’s points from Emmanuel Ajanaku and Sebastiao to get ahead 23-11.

But MSUB responded off 10-straight points from Damen Thacker. The senior guard corralled in a pass from Malik Brikat and went coast-to-coast, made back-to-back layups, then hit a three in front of the WWU bench to pull MSUB within seven, 28-21. WWU brought its lead to double-figures once more, but Thacker threw a long pass ahead to Wiggins, whose dunk fired up the MSUB crowd and made it a 32-23 game with 5:54 left in the first.

Five more points from Thacker brought the ‘Jackets within eight, although the Vikings went on a 7-0 run to close the first half up 42-27.

After shooting 37.5% (9-for-24) from the field in the first half, MSUB bounced back, shooting 55.56% (15-for-27) in the second half. The ‘Jackets made two of their first three field goal attempts – plus got two free throws from Sebastiao – to open the second half, yet another 7-0 Vikings run put WWU back in control in a 51-35 game. The Vikings got their largest lead of the night on a jumper from RJ Seacrest to put MSUB behind 55-37 with 13:20 remaining.

Needing someone to spark a comeback, Wiggins and Brent Finn pulled through. Wiggins kicked things off with a three, snapping a nearly two-minute-long scoring drought, then Finn answered the call. The senior from Big Timber, Mont. scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half as the ‘Jackets made their comeback – crucially, needing another scorer after Thacker picked up his fifth foul with 8 minutes remaining.

With MSUB trailing 56-40, Ajanaku found Finn cutting backdoor, who then finished a nifty up-and-under layup through contact and drew a whistle. He sank the free throw, then made a jumper on MSUB’s next possession to make it a 56-45 game. WWU pushed the lead back to 16 off three free-throws and another jumper from Jalen Green to take a 61-45 lead.

MSUB would outscore WWU 23-7 from that point onward.

Wiggins drove along the baseline and finished an up-an-under layup. Shabazz split a pair of free-throws. Wiggins drove again, this time finishing through contact, flexing and making the bonus. On the next possession, Wiggins picked Green’s pocket, drove the length of the court, then hoisted a pass to Ajanaku, who dunked it home.

MSUB got momentum back after Luke Lovelady was issued a technical foul after making a dunk with 4:15 left. Wiggins calmly sank both free-throws, then on the next possession, Finn drove through the teeth of the WWU defense and made a left-handed layup to make the score 67-62, Vikings with 3:48 left.

The Yellowjacket defense would stymie WWU into going 0-for-4 in the final 3:48 with one turnover. Meanwhile, Finn and Wiggins took over, finishing layups through several Viking defenders to take a 68-67 lead with 1:12 remaining. Lovelady could have put the game away after getting fouled with 16 seconds to go, but he missed the first free throw and made the second to keep MSUB’s hopes alive. Despite missing a potential game-winner, Wiggins and company carried that momentum into overtime tied 68-all.

On the first possession of overtime, Wiggins crossed up several defenders and made a long two to open the scoring, then Finn found Wiggins for a three-pointer on the next possession put MSUB ahead 73-68. After WWU cut MSUB’s lead to three at the 3:06 mark, both teams couldn’t score for nearly two minutes.

Finn had some more magic left in him. Despite driving to the basket and getting his initial layup attempt blocked, Brikat corralled the ball, tiptoed inbounds and heaved the ball out to Finn, who was open in the corner. As Finn fell out of bounds, he flipped the ball to Sebastiao, who waited for Finn to regain his balance before passing it back to the senior. Finn’s long corner jumper was true, putting MSUB up 75-70 with 1 minute and 16 seconds to go.

But Western Washington made one last push. The Vikings fouled Wiggins and Shabazz, who combined to go 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the final minute, then WWU made a flurry of late shots. Trailing by five with 13 seconds left – and with MSUB out of timeouts – the Vikings went on a 5-0 run, tying the game at 80 with two seconds to go.

MSUB inbounded the ball to Sebastiao, who was double-teamed on the other side of the court, but the ball was deflected by WWU’s defenders and into the waiting hands of D’Angelo Minnis, who stepped into a half-court shot as the buzzer sounded.

MSUB’s Senior Night is against Simon Fraser this Saturday at 7 p.m.