MSU Billings, Rocky Mountain College split Round 1 of Rimrock Rivalry

Posted at 8:05 AM, Nov 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-16 14:54:29-05

BILLINGS — Rocky Mountain College and MSU Billings kicked off Round 1 of the Rimrock rivalry in thrilling fashion. The Rocky men overcame a four-point deficit in the final 30 seconds, while the Yellowjacket women used a big second half to pull away from the Battlin' Bears.

Editor's note: RMC athletics release

Rocky men 70, MSUB 69

Despite a four-point deficit in the final 30 seconds, the Battlin' Bears escaped with a one-point victory after clutch free throw shooting from A.J. Wilson secured a win in the Battlin' Bears home opener.

Neither team held a lead larger than six in the first half as both teams traded baskets throughout the half. Elliott Brooks led the scoring for the Rocky men in the first half with 11 points, including three three-pointers. The Yellowjacket's Zharon Richmond answered with three of his own and his two free throws at the end of the half gave MSU Billings a three-point halftime lead.

MSU Billings slowly built their lead in the second half, as a dunk by Emmanuel Ajanaku gave them a seven-point lead with 13:58 remaining, the largest lead by either team. A quick 8-0 run from the Battlin' Bears over the next two minutes gave them the lead back, as the Battlin' Bears attacked the Yellowjackets in transition.

Zharon Richmond continued to be the focal point of MSU Billings' offensive output, getting to the free throw line on back-to-back possessions, before Famous Lefthand hit a three-pointer to spark a 13-5 run to give the Yellowjackets an eight-point lead in the final four minutes of play.

The Rocky men quickly answered back with their own run, as Kael Robinson leaked out in transition for an open dunk and Maxim Stephens battled through two of his own putback attempts for an and-one layup to cut the deficit back to two with 2:23 remaining. A.J. Wilson shot two free throws after being fouled on a defensive rebound, hitting both to tie the game.

Richmond was fouled on the following possession, hitting his seventh and eighth free throws of the night to push the Yellowjacket lead to two.

The score held at 67-65 until Jalen Tot hit a high-arcing layup with 27 seconds left to put the Yellowjackets up four. Kael Robinson was fouled after receiving the following inbounds pass, hitting one of his two free throws, but a scramble for the rebound off the miss resulted in a jump ball, giving the Battlin' Bears possession.

Robinson would be fouled again on the following possession, again hitting one of two attempts, bringing the score to 69-67 into a Yellowjackets timeout.

Following the timeout, MSU Billings was called for an offensive foul before the ball was inbounded, giving possession back to the Battlin' Bears. A.J. Wilson received the inbounds pass, taking a stepback three-pointer, only to be fouled by the Yellowjackets, putting him at the free-throw line with three shots. Wilson sank all three attempts to give the Battlin' Bears the lead and the win, as a half-court heave by Jalen Tot was no good.

The Battlin' Bears were led by two double-doubles from their starting New Zealanders, as Kael Robinson scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Maxim Stephens scored 13 and grabbed 11 boards. A.J. Wilson scored 15 points and was 5-5 on his free throw attempts, while also swiping two steals on the night. The Battlin' Bears shot 37.5% from the field (24-of-64), 30.4% from three (7-of-23), and only 60% from the free throw line (15-of-25). They forced 12 Yellowjacket turnovers and held them to only 24% (6-of-25) from three-point range.

The Rocky men (3-1) will take a week off of competition, before heading to Dickinson, North Dakota for the Sam Milanovic Classic, where they will take on Valley City State and Dickinson State on November 24th and 25th.

MSUB women 80, Rocky 65

The Montana State University Billings women's basketball team defeated crosstown rivals Rocky Mountain College 80-65, using a big night on the offensive end to take the first meeting this season between the two teams in the Rimrock Rivalry.

In front of a packed crowd at the Fortin Center, the Yellowjackets (4-1) showed up ready to go out the gates, picking up a lead in the first quarter and never looking back, taking down the Battlin' Bears (5-0) in exhibition play. The Yellowjackets were lights out from the field all game, shooting 50.9% from the field, and 55% from three, sprinting past the hosting Bears to take the win.

"This was a good win for us tonight," said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. "Rocky is a good team, I was really impressed with their post play early in the game, and they came ready to play. But I was proud of our players for hanging in there, and got better as the game went along. A road win at Rocky is always tough to get, and we're excited about the win."

Dyauni Boyce scored a game high 18 points for MSUB, going 7-15 from the field, adding two rebounds and an assist. Aspen Giese totaled a double-double, scoring 14 points with ten rebounds, and a pair of assists. Shayla Montague added 12 points on four three-pointers, while Kola Bad Bear had ten points, five assists, and three rebounds. Kaitlin Grossman scored nine points with six rebounds. Chloe Willimas and Danielle Zahn each scored six points, with Williams adding three rebounds, blocks, and assists each. Kortney Nelson chipped in five points with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

"We did a great job of getting into a rhythm offensively tonight," Woodin said. "We shot the ball well from the perimeter tonight, the three point ball was big for us. And I was happy that we spread the ball around and had really balanced scoring."

The game began tightly contested, with the teams' trading baskets and the lead over the first six minutes of the period. But after taking an 8-7 lead with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter, MSUB would find it's rhythm, finishing the quarter on a 12-6 run, taking a seven point lead after one. The 'Jackets would continue to shoot well in the second quarter, but Rocky would keep pace with a run of their own to close the quarter, keeping the deficit at seven as MSUB took a 37-30 lead into the half.

The third quarter would commence with the Yellowjackets going on a tear offensively, shooting 64.3% from the field as they outscored the Bears 23-14, opening their lead up to as much as 18. Rebounding proved to be the difference between the two teams in the quarter, with MSUB outrebounding Rocky 8-2, and not allowing a single offensive board in the quarter. The Yellowjackets would carry that momentum into the fourth quarter, taking an 80-53 lead with 2:35 left in the game. Rocky would show some life late to chip away at the lead, but it would be too big a lead to overcome, as the 'Jackets came away with the 80-65 victory.

"The third quarter and most of the fourth quarter was some of the best basketball we've played all season," Woodin said. "We picked up our defensive intensity, and I thought we did a great job on both ends."