(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS - The Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets are going back to their roots Thursday and Friday, donning Eastern Montana College uniforms during rivalry games with Rocky Mountain College. The women open the double-header Thursday while the men take the court Friday. Both tipoffs are set for 7:00 p.m. inside Alterowitz Gym.
Rocky at MSUB WBB - Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
The ‘Jackets will look to even up the season series against Rocky Mountain College after the Battlin’ Bears took game one at First Interstate Arena in November 66-65. MSUB has won four of its last five outings and three straight at Alterowitz Gymnasium but fell to Western Washington on Saturday to snap a four-game win streak. Rocky Mountain College is off to a 6-2 start with a Frontier Conference win over University of Providence last Thursday.
“It’s a level playing field for everyone this week and the players have the added challenge of navigating finals as well,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “I think the team that executes the best will win and I’m looking forward to finding out how much we’ve improved since we played Rocky Mountain College a couple weeks ago. We have shot the ball much more consistently at home, so I hope that trend continues. With so many Montana players and people in the crowd that give us support, it is really a focus for us to play at our best inside our gym. Anytime you can post a home winning streak like we have at the moment, you want to keep it going.”
THE BEAT: With three consecutive 20-point games, junior guard Hannah Collins is up to 11th in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in scoring with 13.6 points per game. Taryn Shelley scores at a rate of 12.4 points per game and has been up and down game-by-game in terms of offensive production. Jeanann Lemelin is playing well and leads the team with 15 steals in nearly 29 minutes per game.
The ‘Jackets returned seniors Taylor Cunningham and Janessa Williams from injury in the past week and statistics have reflected a positive boost as a result. Cunningham is a regular starting forward who can score consistently from the perimeter and Williams is a reliable veteran option who can occasionally start as well.
“It’s been great to have Janessa and Taylor back playing,” said Woodin. “They are seniors and very positive leaders who give tremendous effort on and off the court. Having them back helps with our rotations and they also mentor the younger players. Our overall intensity level is better when they are out there and they understand what it takes to win at this level.”
LAST TIME OUT: The Yellowjackets (4-5, 1-1) fell to Western Washington 81-61 at Sam Carver Gymnasium on Saturday after they defeated Simon Fraser on the road 73-70 Thursday night. MSUB played catchup for most of the game against the Vikings and struggled to stop WWU’s strong inside shooters. Despite the loss, Collins put away 25 points and Taylor Cunningham marked eight points and shot 3-for-4 from the field.
Thursday, the ‘Jackets played excellent defense in the first half and held on late to down the Clan in the GNAC opening game. Collins sparked the offense in the second half and finished with 27 points with four made 3-pointers. Shelley dominated the paint with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Cunningham was instrumental in her return to the lineup with 18 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
“We had a lot of games against difficult opponents right away and I think that will benefit us as we move through the schedule,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We would have liked to go 2-0 on the road last week but we recognize winning a close game at Simon Fraser was an important step.”
Scouting Rocky Mountain College
Thursday, December 12 – 7 p.m. – Billings, Montana – Alterowitz Gymnasium
2019-20 Record: 6-2, 1-1 FRONTIER, 2-0 home, 3-1 away, 1-1 neutral
2018-19 Record: 20-13, 10-8 FRONTIER, 11-3 home, 8-6 away, 1-4 neutral
Head Coach: Wes Keller (6th season)
Rocky Mountain College defeated MSU Billings 66-65 in the first installment of the Rimrock Rivalry on November 6. Hannah Collins led the Yellowjackets with 17 points but the Battlin’ Bears shot 40-percent compared to 22-percent for MSUB. Markaela Francis led RMC with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Francis leads the team with 17.3 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game.
Destinee Pointer is another offensive contributor with 11.7 points per game in eight starts. On defense, Mackenzie Dethman is reliable with 7.2 rebounds per contest including 27 on offense. Dethman also scores at a rate of 11.3 points per game.
RMC scores 68.8 points per game and allows 59 points to opponents. Most recently, the Battlin’ Bears fell 57-47 in Havre, Montana to Montana State Northern on December 7 and shot 33.3-percent from the floor with seven made 3-pointers on 21 attempts. It has been 39 years since RMC swept a two game season series against the Yellowjackets. MSUB is 41-5 at home against the Battlin’ Bears since 1973.
“It’s imperative that we get off to a better start against Rocky this time around,” Woodin said. “They do a really nice job of isolating players and spreading you out. They have a strong ball screen offense and a number of role players who are effective. Rocky is a balanced team that is challenging to play against so playing close early.”
Rocky at MSUB MBB - Friday, 7:00 p.m.
MSUB (4-4, 0-2 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) returns home after a quick dive into GNAC play last weekend. Rocky (4-2, 1-1 Frontier Conference) split games in their opening Frontier Conference games, losing to the University of Providence 83-71 and defeating Montana State University-Northern 90-86 last week.
Rocky defeated MSUB in the first matchup between the two rivals 79-70 on November 23rd. Brendan Howard led MSUB with 24 points and added seven rebounds. Tyler Green finished with 12 points. Chrishon Dixon had a team high four assists and freshmen Sam Elliott had a team leading eight rebounds.
“We’re going to have to play a lot better this time around if we think things will be different,” said head coach Mick Durham. “Rocky is playing with a lot of confidence and has gotten better each week. Rocky’s returning players are playing very well and there freshman are accepting their roles.”
LAST TIME OUT: MSUB dropped their two opening GNAC games to Simon Fraser University and Western Washington University. SFU won 88-76 and WWU claimed victory 86-62.
BY THE NUMBERS: The ‘Jackets currently have the seventh ranked offense (74.5 points/game) and ninth ranked defense (80.4 points per game) in the conference.
MSUB ranks fourth in the GNAC with 37.6 rebounds per game. The Yellowjackets are second in the GNAC with 3.88 blocked shots per game. They rank fifth in Division II with 12.5 personal fouls per game and 17th in fewest fouls with 100.
Howard continues to lead the GNAC and is 20th in Davison II in scoring averaging 23.0 points per game. The sophomore has put together a nice a nice run of four double-doubles in a row and also leads the GNAC in rebounding with 9.5 per game. On the season, Howard has five double-doubles which is the 10th best in the nation.
Green is seventh in the GNAC with 16.6 points per game and is second in the GNAC with a .875 free throw percentage (21-24).
Dixon is averaging 9.0 points per game as is tied with Green for team lead in assists with 27.
Stevie James scored nine points in each game to finish with 18 for the week. He connected on 4 of 7 from the field at Simon Fraser and made 6 of 7 from the free throw line at Western Washington. James is averaging 6.8 points per game.
Scouting Rocky Mountain College
Game Day: Friday, December 13-Alterowitz Gym 7:00pm
2019 Record: 4-2, 1-1 Frontier, 1-0 home, 2-1 away, 1-1 neutral
2018 Record: 19-13, 10-8 Frontier, 12-4 home, 6-9 away, 1-3 neutral
Head Coach: Bill Dreikosen (19th season)
MSUB will renew the Rimmrock rivalry with the Battlin’ Bears. It will be the 172nd time the rivals have clashed with MSUB holding the overall advantage 91-82.
Rocky delved briefly into conference play this past weekend as they lost to the University of Providence 93-71 and defeated MSU-Northern 90-86.
Rocky is averaging 85.5 points per game as a team while surrendering 80.6 points per game.
Clayton Ladine is pacing the Battlin’ Bears with a scoring average of 17.2 points per game and chipping in 6.0 rebounds per contest. Sam Vining is second with 12.0 points per contest with 5.3 rebounds.