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MSU Billing men open second half of GNAC play Thursday

Posted at 10:12 PM, Jan 24, 2018

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Marking the official halfway point of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference season, the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets (11-10, 3-7 GNAC) will face both the Northwest Nazarene Nighthawks (9-8, 5-6 GNAC) and the Central Washington Wildcats (10-8, 5-6 GNAC) for the second time this season. MSUB’s second-to-last road trip of the season will start Thursday at 7 p.m. Mountain time in Nampa, Idaho with NNU before concluding with a visit to Central Washington at 8:00 p.m. (MST) on Saturday.

LAST TIME OUT: The Yellowjackets come into the week on a three game losing streak, the longest streak of any kind since MSUB’s 6-0 start. With their losses to Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin’s, the ‘Jackets had their first winless week since starting GNAC play with a pair of losses in Alaska on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.

In last Thursday’s game against Seattle Pacific, MSUB held the lead for all but 31 seconds in the opening half. The roles reversed after halftime as the Falcons gained control of the lead and the game. Kobe Terashima put MSUB ahead by one with six minutes remaining but it would be the largest lead for the remainder of the contest for MSUB. SPU took control of the game from the free throw line as they made 19-22 attempts in the second half.

In the loss to Saint Martin’s, the ‘Jackets again faltered in the second half where they were outscored by 13 in the final 20 minutes. The Saints had four players score in double-digits and shot 49.2 percent from the floor. Zack Rollins led the MSUB offense with 17 points and recorded a season-best four steals while Kendall Denham added 16 points and three assists for the ‘Jackets.

The Yellowjackets’ weekend opponents met up for a Tuesday night clash with Central Washington collecting a 99-89 victory over Northwest Nazarene. The Wildcats built a 22-point lead in the first half as they made 11 3-pointers in the opening period to out-pace the Nighthawks’ 1-for-11 performance beyond the arc. Sage Woodruff finished the night 5 of 8 from deep with a game-high 26 points for the CWU. The Wildcats’ Khalil Shabazz scored 21 in the game while making 3 of 4 3-pointers and 8 of 10 free throw attempts.

The Nighthawks received solid contributions from Jayden Bezzant who led the team with 23 points while teammates Maurice Jones and Obi Megwa chipped in 18 and 17 respectively. NNU shot just 25.9 percent from beyond the arc in the game while the Wildcats connected on 55.6 percent of their shots from deep.

NUMBERS AND NOTES

HALFWAY THEY’RE: With 10 conference games under their belt, the Yellowjackets lead the GNAC with 232 made 3-pointers this season and rank third in 3-point percentage hitting 39.5 percent of their shots from deep. Zack Rollins has made the most trifectas in the conference with 58 and now ranks ninth in the GNAC scoring 14.6 points per game. Kendall Denham is second to Rollins in both 3-pointers made and scoring with 50 threes and a 12.5 scoring average. Zharon Richmond has the second-best scoring average amongst freshman in the conference and leads his class in both rebounds (5.0) and blocks (1.7). Fellow freshman Kobe Terashima is 1 of 6 GNAC-players in the conference to average four of more assist per game with a 4.3 average ranking fourth.

The ‘Jackets have the fourth best scoring offense averaging 81.7 points as a team while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor which places them sixth. Their biggest weakness has been keeping players from getting open shot inside of the arc as opponents have shot 47.2 percent from the field against MSUB, the highest opponent shooting percentage in the league. Ironically, the ‘Jackets have the second best 3-point percentage defense as they have held their foes to just 32.2 percent from deep which ranks 40th out of 350 teams nationally.

ROLLINS RAINS: After transferring to MSUB in September, Zack Rollins has had a major impact over the ‘Jackets first 21 games. He has shown a knack for making threes from well beyond the arc and pushing the ball in transition. The Pelham, N.Y. native has also made his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor where he leads the team with 24 steals and a team-best average of 5.4 rebounds per game. Rollins has only led the team in scoring in three games this season but has had remarkable consistency with just four games with fewer than 10 points this season, the fewest of any player on MSUB. He and Denham are the only ‘Jackets to start every game this season with Rollins averaging the second most minutes (27.6) behind the fifth-year point guard (30.4).

STARTING FRESH: Daniel Shedden and Kobe Terashima each made their debuts in the Yellowjacket starting lineup last week. In their first start against SPU, Shedden scored 19 points and collected five rebounds while Terashima stuffed the stat sheet with six points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Both players finished the night with season-highs in minutes as Shedden played 26 minutes and Treashima was on the court for 37 minutes.

CONFERENCE STANDINGS: Western Washington made it through their first 10 GNAC games with an unblemished 10-0 mark. They dealt the No. 9 Wolves of Western Oregon their only loss off the season in a dominating 85-58 victory in Bellingham, Wash. back on Dec. 2. The Wolves are 17-1 overall and 9-1 in conference play. Saint Martin’s, Seattle Pacific and the University of Alaska are all 6-4 in conference. This weekend’s opponents, Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington, are each 5-6 as the only teams to have played 11 conference games thus far. Alaska Anchorage is 4-6, just ahead of the 3-7 Yellowjackets with Simon Fraser (2-8) and Concordia (0-10) completing the conference standings.

Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 | 7 P.M. (MST) | Nampa, Idaho
2017-18 Record: 9-8, 5-6 GNAC
Head Coach: Paul Rush (1st Season)
2016-17 Record: 12-14, 9-11 GNAC (8th Place)

FIRST MEETING WITH MSUB: While visiting Billings in December, the Nighthawks fell 99-88 to the Yellowjackets. MSUB rushed out to a big 51-32 lead in the first half with the help of seven first-half 3-pointers. Daniel Shedden led the ‘Jackets with 21 points while teammates Zack Rollins (18), Zharon Richmond (18), Sven Jeuschede (17) and Kendall Denham (14) all scored in double figures. NNU’s Obi Megwa had 25 points on 11-for-20 shooting while Maurice Jones was held to 9 points.

SERIES BREAKDOWN: The ‘Jackets are 19-17 against NNU all-time. The teams have split the season series the past two seasons after the ‘Jackets snapped a five game losing streak to the Nighthawks in Feb. 2016. MSUB last won in Nampa in 2013 by a final score of 63-61.

The ‘Hawks have dropped their past two games to Western Oregon and Central Washington coming into the weekend. They’re 3-2 when hosting GNAC teams in Nampa this season and 6-3 at home overall

Megwa and Jones rank first and second in the conference for scoring average combining for 37.3 points per game. Jones has the second best rebounding rate in the GNAC with 9.0 boards per game and has recorded six double-doubles this season.

As a team NNU has an 80.9 points per game pace that is sixth among GNAC schools. The Nighthawks have had difficulty stopping opponents this season as they give up a league-high 81 points per contest and have the fewest blocks in the league.

Central Washington University Wildcats
Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 | 7 P.M. (PST) | Ellensburg, Wash.
2017-18 Record: 10-8, 5-6 GNAC
Head Coach: Alex Pribble (3rd Season)
2016-17 Record: 14-12, 9-11 GNAC (T-6th Place)

FIRST MEETING WITH MSUB: The Wildcats scored their first GNAC win of the season in Billings back on Dec. 14 with an 80-75 victory over the ‘Jackets. The game featured four lead changes with the last coming on a Sage Woodruff layup with 13:49 remaining to play. A three from Zack Rollins cut the lead to one possession with seven seconds left in the game but a pair of free throws would seal the win for CWU. Sven Jeuschede scored 20 points in the contest while the Wildcats received a 23 point effort from Fuquan Niles on their way to victory.

SERIES BREAKDOWN: Central Washington has a commanding 18-6 advantage over the Yellowjackets in their 24 meetings. The teams split a pair of games last season with each squad winning on the road. MSUB had lost six straight to the Wildcats before a 96-69 win in Ellensburg last season put the ‘Jackets back in the win column.

Central Washington has won their past two games by double digits with a 111-100 win over Concordia preceding Tuesday’s defeat of NNU. The Wildcats are 1-3 against GNAC opponents at home this season compared to 3-3 on the road and 1-0 in a neutral contest against NNU earlier this year.

Khalil Shabazz is the top scorer for the Wildcats with 14.6 points per game ranking 11th in the GNAC. Jawan Stepney is second on the team with 12.6 points per game after putting in 45 points in the double-overtime win over Concordia. It is the highest scoring output in a GNAC contest since Alaska Anchorage’s Sekou Wiggs scored 46 against CWU last season. Stepney was just five points shy of former Yellowjacket Antoine Hosley’s GNAC-record 50 points in a game which also came against Central in 2015.

Fuquan Niles leads the conference with 2.2 blocks per game and is third averaging 7.8 rebounds. The big man ranks 17th in the nation for total blocks with 40. Niles holds the GNAC record for blocks per game after averaging 2.84 rejections per contest last season.

Niles leads a group that is tops in the GNAC with 12.4 offensive rebounds per game and fourth in the conference in rebounding margin. Central Washington is fifth in scoring offense (80.9 ppg) and seventh in scoring defense (77.1 ppg).

All MSUB home games as well as all GNAC road contests can be followed via the MSUB Stretch Internet Portal.