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MSU Billings women host Alaska teams Thursday, Saturday

Posted at 8:03 PM, Jan 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-03 22:03:32-05

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – For the third week in-a-row the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team will face a top-25 opponent, as No. 6 University of Alaska Anchorage visits Alterowitz Gym in the first half of a four-game home stand.

The Yellowjackets (10-4, 3-1 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) play the University of Alaska Nanooks (4-7, 0-5 GNAC) on Thursday evening, before the challenge against the Seawolves (12-1, 5-0) Saturday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. both nights, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.

“We are excited to get back home to practice and play in our own gym for a few weeks,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Over the last month we have been in a lot of different gyms and had a week off, so now we will be able to reestablish some consistency being at home. Fairbanks will be a different team with their new coach, and they had a lot of seniors from a year ago. We will need to be prepared for them, as I was impressed after watching them against Simon last week.

“Anchorage is outstanding again, and their ability to continue their winning streak in our league is very impressive,” Woodin continued. “Despite losing some key players to graduation they are tremendously talented again. I would like to see us get off to better starts in the first half this week, and I’m hopeful that being in our own gym will improve our shooting percentages which have been too low over the past few games.”

MSUB remains at home next week for more conference contests against Northwest Nazarene University and Central Washington. In total, MSUB has eight home games and eight road games left on the regular-season schedule.

GNAC STANDINGS: The ‘Jackets are in a three-way tie for second place in the GNAC standings, as No. 25 Seattle Pacific University and Northwest Nazarene University are also 3-1 in league play. The top-six teams in the standings at the end of the regular season earn a berth in the 2017-18 GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships, which are scheduled for March 2-4, 2018 in Anchorage, Alaska.


UP TO SPEED: MSUB snapped a four-game losing skid on Saturday, holding on for a narrow 58-56 win at Saint Martin’s University to remain towards the top of the GNAC standings. The win came after a 70-61 loss at No. 25 Seattle Pacific two nights earlier, and ended a stretch of five straight games away from home.

“It was nice to get the win at Saint Martin’s and come away with a split,” “We had opportunities to win at SPU, but we just didn’t execute well enough. The SMU game could have gone either way but we found a way to win at the end.”

HOME SWEET HOME: The Yellowjackets will be eager to return to Alterowitz Gym Thursday, which will mark nearly one month since their last home game on Dec. 9 in an 87-65 win over the University of Providence. MSUB is a perfect 7-0 at home this season, and has statistically superior splits in games played in the Magic City. In particular, the ‘Jackets shoot much better in their home gym, at 42.7 percent from the field in seven home games compared to 39.3 percent in seven road games. From 3-point range, MSUB shoots 33.9 percent at Alterowitz Gym and just 29.6 percent away, and from the foul line the team is at 79.7 percent at home and 68.2 percent on the road.

‘JACKETS LOOK TO SHAKE SHOOTING WOES: The nearly six-point discrepancy in team scoring (73.6 points per game at home, 68.0 on the road) was influenced by the team’s shooting struggles over the last two weeks. MSUB shot just 34.9 percent from the floor in its last five games, and 25.7 percent from 3-point range contributing to an average of 62.4 points per game. Additionally, MSUB made just 69.4 percent of its free throws in that period. Before the five-game stretch away from home, a team average of 75.4 points per game was thanks to stellar shooting marks of 44.4 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from long range, and 77.1 percent from the free-throw line.

BREEN IN 1,500 CLUB: Senior Alisha Breen continued to climb career leaderboards last week, scoring 44 points in MSUB’s two games and surpassing 1,500 points in her career. She moved to No. 12 in GNAC history, and maintained her spot at No. 7 in MSUB history. Breen also had 27 rebounds in constructing two double-doubles last week, and cracked into MSUB’s top-10 in boards with 649. She tied a career high with 17 rebounds in the win against Saint Martin’s, and has had 10 or more boards in six of MSUB’s 14 games this year.

MSUB WBB Career Rebound Leaders (1/2/18)
Rank Name Rebounds Seasons
1 Janiel Olson
1001 2012-14, 16
2 Robyn Milne 957 2002-05
3 Alicia Cahill 814 1996-99
4 Natalie Visger
796 2000-03
5 Theresa O’Donnell 761 1982-84
6 Michelle Lieber 740 2005-07
7 Shelley Altrogge 734 1990-91
8 Lori Fries 684 1981-84
9 Codi Schmitz 649 1997-2000
Tanya Petersen 649 2003-06
Alisha Breen
649 2013-18

Entering this week Breen leads the GNAC with 21.0 points per game and is second in rebounding with 8.6 boards per game. Her scoring average is No. 17 in the NCAA, and she continues to rank among national leaders in made free throws at No. 7 with 77.

WEEKS SNAGS CAREER HIGH: Senior Grace Weeks followed Breen’s lead and picked up 10 rebounds against the Saints on Saturday. It was her highest total since becoming a Yellowjacket before the 2016-17 season, and it doubled her prior season high of five boards. Weeks chipped in seven points as well, and now ranks fifth on the team with 5.2 points per game.

KANE AMONG ASSISTS LEADERS: Senior Rylee Kane handed out six assists against the Saints, after posting her fourth-highest point total of the year with 15 against SPU in a productive week. Kane is second in the GNAC with 5.5 assists per game, and is No. 10 in the entire NCAA with a total of 77 assists as of Tuesday.

2017-18 NCAA WBB Assists Leaders (1/2/18)
Rank Player School Class Assists Games
1 Nina Vukosavljevic NYIT SR 109 13
2 Ivy Wallen North Alabama SO 108 11
3 Kendall Toineeta Lenoir-Rhyne JR 91 14
4 Karlee Alves Merrimack JR 86 12
5 Laney Lewis Ursuline SR 85 13
6 Zoe March Azusa Pacific SO 84 16
7 Paige Salisbury Ursuline JR 80 13
8 Paige Imhoff Pittsburg State SR 79 13
9 Taylor Tanita UC San Diego SR 78 13
10 Rylee Kane
MSU Billings SR 77 14

STAVISH IMPROVING ON BOARDS: Ranking third on the team with 4.4 rebounds, junior Vanessa Stavish has increased that number as of late. Over her last five games, Stavish is averaging 5.2 rebounds and has reached her season high of eight on two occasions. Stavish netted a dozen points against the Saints for her seventh double-figure game of the year, and is third on the team with 9.5 points per game.

CUNNINGHAM, KOEHLER BACK: The Yellowjackets were without a significant portion of their lineup on the road last week, as sophomore Taylor Cunningham and senior Rachel Koehler were sidelined. Cunningham had started all 12 games, and is fourth on the team with 3.7 rebounds per contest while averaging 26.5 minutes. Koehler is second on the squad with 5.3 rebounds, and is averaging 13.5 minutes per game. Both figure to be back with the team this week, drastically improving MSUB’s depth. It will be nice to have both Taylor and Rachel back this week to enhance our depth especially at the 3-through-5 positions

University of Alaska Nanooks
2017-18 Record: 4-7, 0-5 GNAC
Last Five: L-W-W-L-L
Head Coach: Brett Sawyer, 1st season
2016-17 Record: 13-14, 9-11 GNAC (T-6th place)

The Nanooks have gotten off to a tough start in league play, and are still in search of their first conference victory. In its return to the court after the holiday break, UA lost 83-49 at Western Washington University and fell 73-49 at Simon Fraser University. The team’s trip to Billings marks its only game this week.

Lexi Carpenter leads the team and ranks sixth in the conference with 14.5 points per game, but is the lone Nanook in double figures. She is one of the top shooters in the league, with a 3-point field-goal percentage of 39.4.

Ashlie Blackburn is the team’s top rebounder at 6.8 boards per game, and she ranks third on the team with 6.7 points. The ‘Jackets will also have to look out for 3-point shooter Emily Evans, who is at 40.0 percent from the arc.

As a team Alaska ranks last in the GNAC with 60.2 points per game, but is third in the conference while allowing just 62.5 points per game. The Nanooks shoot 38.1 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from long range, and 62.2 percent from the foul line. Alaska’s rebounding margin of plus-4.6 (42.2-37.5) is fifth-best in the conference.

The Series: MSUB holds a dominant 51-14 all-time record against the Nanooks, in a series that dates back to 1978. MSUB is 26-3 at home, and has won 18 of the last 21 overall meetings.

Last Time Out: The ‘Nooks swept the season series last year, winning 71-53 in Billings last December and claiming a 66-42 win in Fairbanks last January. Kane had nine points in the road loss, and she, Lexi Prevost, and Brina Hull each had six in the home defeat.

No. 6 University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves
2017-18 Record: 12-1, 5-0 GNAC
Last Five: W-W-L-W-W
Head Coach: Ryan McCarthy, 6th season
2016-17 Record: 30-2, 20-0 GNAC (GNAC Reg. Season Champions, NCAA Tournament 2nd round)

A 68-58 loss at Sonoma State University on Dec. 19 interrupted UAA’s perfect start to the season, but the Seawolves responded with wins over Simon Fraser and Western Washington last week to remain undefeated in league play at 5-0. UAA carries a 25-game conference winning streak into Saturday’s game at MSUB, as it has not dropped a league game since Feb. 27, 2016 against Simon Fraser.

UAA features the top scoring margin in the league at plus-18.2, as the team averages 78.9 points per game while allowing 60.8. The Seawolves are also fourth in the GNAC in rebounding margin at plus-5.2 (39.0-33.8).

Three Seawolves average double-figures in the scoring department, with preseason all-conference selection Hannah Wandersee leading the way at 14.0 points per game. Wandersee does damage under the basket, with her field-goal percentage of 52.0 ranking third in the league.

Shelby Cloninger is averaging 13.8 points per game, and Rodericka Ware chips in 10.8 with both being strong 3-point shooters. Cloninger shoots 35.4 percent from the arc, while Ware is at 37.5 percent. Tara Thompson is the best 3-point shooter on the squad, hitting at a clip of 40.7 percent from downtown.

Cloninger and Wandersee are the team’s top rebounders, averaging 6.8 and 6.4 boards per game, respectively. Point guard Yazmeen Goo is fourth on the team with 7.8 points, and is sixth in the GNAC with 3.6 assists per game.

As a team UAA shoots 43.4 percent from the field, 32.9 percent from long range, and 72.0 percent from the free-throw line.

The Series: MSUB is 26-33 all-time against UAA and holds a positive 15-13 record in home games. The Seawolves have won seven games in-a-row in the series, and Saturday will mark the eighth straight game in which UAA is ranked in the top-25 when playing MSUB. The Seawolves have also won nine of the last 10 and 19 of the last 21 games dating back to 2008. MSUB’s last win was a 75-72 triumph at home on March 1, 2014, when Kayleen Goggins had 20 points, Breen had 15 points, and Bobbi Knudsen had eight points, eight assists, and six rebounds.

Last Time Out: UAA won both games last year with an 87-44 drubbing on Dec. 31 in Billings and an 82-43 triumph in Anchorage on Jan. 26. Cunningham had eight points and Kane had six assists in the home loss, and Kane and Hull each had seven points in the road defeat.