(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
LAS VEGAS – The MSU Billings basketball men (5-5, 0-2) fell to one of the hottest teams in the country on Sunday, losing 58-54 to Rollins College (8-3, 2-1) at the Division II Holiday Hoops Classic hosted by the South Point Arena & Equestrian Center.
Rollins was crowned tournament champions after defeating No. 25 in the nation Drury University on Saturday. MSUB ended the tournament 1-1 after defeating Pittsburg State University yesterday. Rollins now has two top 25 wins this season as they defeated number one in all of D-II last week, Nova Southeastern.
MSUB hung with Rollins all afternoon, never being behind by more than five points in the first half. Rollins led for 31 minutes and 43 seconds total, while MSUB only led for 2:35. In a game that featured six ties and 11 lead changes, MSUB trailed most of the way, but never let Rollins out of its reach.
Following their season pattern as a second-half team, MSUB trailed by five (28-23) headed into halftime. The Yellowjackets would again need to provide late-game drama in the second half if they had any hopes of winning.
Rollins opened up a 39-27 point advantage just six minutes into the second half. Faced with the game close to getting out of reach, MSUB slowly fought and clawed its way back into striking distance.
With 5:40 left on the clock, MSUB’s most dangerous sniper, Tyler Green, converted a 3-point shot to bring MSUB within two points, 52-50, setting up a tense final five minutes.
Two Zharon Richmond free throws tied the game at 52 with 3:38 left. In a rush of activity up and down the court, MSUB and Rollins traded missed shots and turnovers for the next two minutes until Hutton Yenor from Rollins converted a jumper to give the Tars a 54-52 points lead.
Another Hutton jumper made it 56-52 in favor of Rollins, but not be outdone quite yet, Richmond converted his own jumper to make it 56-54 with 46 seconds remaining.
Hutton provided the Tars final six points as he converted a layup to give Rollins the four-point advantage 58-54. With six second left, Richmond missed a 3-point shot, Hutton retrieved the rebound and was fouled for a chance to put the game away.
Missing the front end of the one-and-one, Brendan Howard grabbed the rebound, passed it ahead to Green who launched a deep 3 in the final act of desperation that did not find its mark, and Rollins escaped with the 58-54 win.
“I am excited how we competed this weekend,” said head coach Mick Durham. “We saw a different style of play today and almost found a way to get it done. Our guys are excited for a week break, deserve time with their families and being home. WE will get back to work on Dec. 30 and look forward to GNAC play.”
For MSUB, Howard finished with a team-leading 19 points to go with eight rebounds. Richmond scored 17 points and had a team leading nine rebounds, while Green added 14 points.
As a team, MSUB shot 37.0 percent from the field and 22.2 from 3-point range. Rollins shot 43.6 from the field and 25.0 from beyond the arc. The Yellowjackets had 18 turnovers while the Tars finished with 13.
Player of the Game: Brendan Howard was named the St. Vincent Player of the Game for his 19 points and eight rebounds…Howard has score double-digit point totals in every game this season for MSUB and closes out 2019 leading the GNAC in scoring.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Yellowjackets have a mandatory NCAA break and will be home for the holidays. The next game action will see MSUB dive head first into GNAC play. MSUB will kick-off 2020 with a road trip to face Western Oregon University on January 2nd and Concordia University, Portland on Jan. 4th.