(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS - Much as a rivalry should be, the Montana State University Billings Men’s basketball them found themselves locked in a back and forth battle with rival Rocky Mountain College Friday night in Alterowitz Gym . Needing overtime to secure the win, MSUB prevailed 89-86.
The Yellowjackets (4-4, 0-2 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) proved the better team in overtime outscoring Rocky (4-2, 1-1 Frontier Conference) by a narrow margin 8-5 in the OT period. In a classic game that featured 15 lead changes and 14 ties, MSUB and Rocky mirrored each other the entire way.
Rocky took a two point led heading into half time after a buzzer beating layup and thus on the flip side, MSUB outscored Rocky 46-44 in the second half.
Locking down on defense at critical times seems to be the ‘Jackets signature early in the season. In the crucial OT period, MSUB forced three Rocky turnovers which proved to be the difference in the three point victory, 89-86.
“The game is a big deal being rivals that are two miles away and it wasn’t easy from the start,” said head coach Mick Durham. “We had a little more time to prepare this time but both teams made some big shots. We talked about limiting turnovers and set a goal of 20 assists. They are dangerous from three as they made 13, but we focused on balance by going small with some threes and getting points down low too. We are still evolving and trying things to see what pieces we can fit together. We just found a way to get it done.”
The ‘Jackets had four players contribute double digit scoring efforts. Brendan Howard had 23 points and nine rebounds while Psalm Maduakor posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
In his best game as a Yellowjacket, Stevie James played 40 minutes and finished with 17 points. Also having a career night was Jordan Lehrer who finished with 10 points, two massive dunks and one critical block.
Overall, MSUB shot 27.9 percent (8-29) from three points range and 43.7 from the floor. Making free throws is always important and tonight MSUB got to the charity stripe 20 times converting 19.
In contrast, Rocky only had six free throw attempts making five. The Bears made 13 of their 36 (36.1 percent) three point attempts and shot 43.0 percent from the field. Clayton Ladine led the Bears with 26 points and nine rebounds.