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MSU Billings men topple No. 8 Saint Martin's; Yellowjacket women win fifth straight

Shayla Montague
MSUB WBB MMIP.png
Posted at 9:13 PM, Feb 17, 2024

(Editor's note: MSUB athletics release)

BILLINGS — The Montana State Billings men's basketball team upset St. Martin's 83-78 on Saturday at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

Alterowitz was packed as it not only featured the two top teams in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, but MSUB also honored its seniors and partnered with the Native American Achievement Center to pay tribute to Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women by wearing red to show their support for No More Stolen Sisters.

Both squads battled back-and-forth and in the final minutes MSUB clutching out the win.

"Tough win by our guys, I'm just extremely proud of their grit and toughness throughout the whole game," said head coach Luke Fennelly. "Our defense in the second half ultimately was the difference holding them to only one three pointer and 30 percent from the field."

The Yellowjackets were impressive all night as they had five players in the double digits including a 28-point performance from Jalen Tot and a 17-point season-high from Steven Richardson. The Jackets outshot the Saints from the field and beyond the arc and had 28 made free throws. This was a result of 40 total fouls from both squads, proving how intense and chippy the game was.

The Saint's came out hot, going on a 12-5 run while shooting just under 75% from the field. MSUB quickly evened the score going on a 9-2 run behind Famous Lefthand who had six of those points.

The Yellowjackets kept their momentum going and gained their largest lead of the night at the 9:19 mark after Jalen Tot hit a deep 3 to take a 29-19 lead. The next five minutes were back-and-forth with the Saints closing the gap to a four-point lead for the Jackets. The Jackets went into the locker room up 49-42 at the half.

The Yellowjackets came out hot again in the second half going on a 21-12 run in the first six and a half minutes of play. By the 13:22 mark the Yellowjackets had amassed their largest lead of the game at 16 points thanks to Tot and Richardson doing most of the heavy lifting.

The Saints capitalized with eight unanswered points from a seven-minute stretch of scoreless basketball from MSUB. That's when Tot took control, scoring seven consecutive points to put MSUB back ahead by 11.

The Saints clawed their way back again, bringing it within one point with 27 seconds left. With the crowd on its feet and pressure on the line, Zharon Richmond closed the game by making two late free throws.

MSUB women 66, Seattle Pacific 55

The MSUB women picked up their fifth consecutive victory, taking down Seattle Pacific 66-55 on Saturday.

With the gym packed in red to help support the Yellowjackets for the program's No More Stolen Sisters game, MSUB overcame a 32.3% field goal percentage by taking excellent care of the ball, committing just six turnovers while forcing 20 turnovers from the Falcons.

"This was a great win for us," said head coach Kevin Woodin. "Both teams battled really hard tonight. I thought our defense was great all night tonight. We created pressure all game, and did a great job boxing out and rebounding on that end of the court.

"We were a little cold from the field until late, but we protected the ball very well. I thought we had been a little sloppy with the ball on our last road trip, so I was really proud to see how we responded here."

Shayla Montague led all scorers with 19 points, shooting 7 for 10 from the field and 4 of 6 from the 3-point line, along with grabbing four rebounds. Kola Bad Bear had 18, going 10 for 11 from the free throw line while adding four rebounds and four steals.

Kortney Nelson finished with 12 points, going a perfect 6 for 6 from the charity stripe while totaling six rebounds and six assists. Aspen Giese had eight points with 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Dyauni Boyce had seven points, four assists and a steal. The Jackets went a combined 19 for 21 from the free throw line while making 35% of their long-range attempts.

The Yellowjackets took an early first quarter lead courtesy of Montague, who scored nine points in the opening five minutes, including a pair of four-point plays. But Seattle Pacific would surge back in the back half of the first quarter, finishing the final five minutes on an 11-2 run, taking a 19-13 lead at the end of the quarter.

MSUB would right the ship in the second quarter however, allowing just one made basket over the first seven minutes, opening the second period on a 16-2 run. The Jackets outrebounded SPU 13-6, locking down the boards and preventing second-chance opportunities while scoring over half their points in the quarter from inside the paint, taking a 35-28 lead into the break.

MSUB would shoot just 25% in the third quarter, but still managed to outscore the Falcons 14-11 in the period, increasing their lead to double-digits going into the fourth quarter. The Jackets continued to keep Seattle Pacific at bay in the fourth quarter, finishing with their best shooting quarter of the night to respond to every attempt at a comeback.