(MSU Billings release)
BILLINGS – Kendall Denham scored 23 points and Hafeez Abdul recorded a double-double as the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets (12-13, 4-10 GNAC) snapped a six-game Great Northwest Conference losing streak with an 80-79 win over the Concordia (Ore.) Cavaliers (4-18, 014 GNAC) on Saturday night.
It is the second time this season that the ‘Jackets have gotten the best of the Cavs after MSUB won an 83-70 contest in Portland, Ore. in January.
The first half was a neck-and-neck battle with neither team taking control of the action. The Yellowjackets’ zone defense slowed Concordia’s offense as the Cavaliers spent most of the night shooting contested threes and mid-range jumpers.
Effectively getting to the rim, the Yellowjackets pulled out to a seven point advantage at the 11 minute mark of the opening period. Going on an 11-3 run the ‘Jackets used two Kobe Terashima layups and a Zack Rollins dunk along with a three and two free throws from Denham to gain their largest advantage of the half.
Concordia responded while shooting 51.9 percent in the first 20 minutes. Eventually the Cavaliers would lead by eight with just 1:19 left before halftime. However, the ‘Jackets cashed in on 3-pointers from Denham and Tyler Green to cut the deficit to 38-35 at the break.
Denham had 12 points at the break along with two assists and one steal to lead MSUB. Rollins started the game by making two deep 3-pointers and had eight points and three rebounds while Terashima led the ‘Jackets with six boards at the half.
In the second half the Yellowjackets quickly regained the lead with Rollins, Terashima and Abdul sparking the offense. With just 4:30 remaining in the game Denham hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night to give MSUB the biggest lead of the game, 75-65.
Concordia clawed their way back with Cody Starr and Christopher Edward leading the effort. The Cavaliers finished the game on a 14-5 run but it wouldn’t be enough. Denham made crucial plays down the stretch including committing a smart foul with six seconds left in the game and a three-point lead to keep the Cavs from taking a game-tying 3-pointer.
MSUB was out-shot in the game as the Cavaliers made 54.2 percent of their shots in the game compared to the ‘Jackets’ 47.5 shooting rate. For the second straight game the Yellowjackets committed fewer than 10 turnovers with just nine against CU. They outscored the Cavs 20-6 in points off of turnovers and recorded eight steals in the game.
Terashima was in triple-double territory as the freshman guard filled the stat sheet with eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Abdul had five offensive and five defensive rebounds to go along with his 11 points to secure a double-double. Zharon Richmond scored 13 in the game and added two rebounds while working against the conference’s leading rebounder in Edward.
The Yellowjackets will be back on the road for GNAC competition next Thursday when they travel to Western Washington in Bellingham, Wash. The game will start at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Western Washington defeated the ‘Jackets 100-91 in Billings earlier this season. Next Saturday, MSUB will look to sweep the season series against Simon Fraser when they visit Burnaby, B.C. The Yellowjackets defeated the Clan 78-73 at home.