(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Scoring just three points in the opening 11:30 of play buried the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team on Thursday evening, as the Yellowjackets lost to Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Saint Martin’s University 77-60 at Alterowitz Gym.
Freshman Zharon Richmond led all players with a personal-best 24 points, shooting 8-for-14 from the field in 34 minutes. Zack Rollins chipped in 15 points and a team-high six rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to counteract four Saints who scored in double figures. MSUB fell to 13-15 on the season, and is now 5-12 in conference play after the loss.
Jordan Kitchen led the Saints (20-6, 13-5 GNAC) with 13 points, Rhett Baerlocher and EJ Boyce each had a dozen, and Matt Dahlen finished with 10.
“Zharon struggled last weekend, so it was good to see him get some things going for us tonight,” said MSUB head coach Jamie Stevens. “We played well in the first half, but we just didn’t make very many shots.”
The Yellowjackets opened the game just 1-for-14 from the field, with a trey by Rollins the only made bucket until well into the opening half.
SMU put an exclamation mark on its early run with a spectacular alley-oop, with BJ Standley tossing a lob from half court to Tavian Henderson for the slam. By then the ‘Jackets trailed 16-3 and had major ground to make up.
Richmond hit a trey with 8:28 to go before the break, to snap a nearly nine-minute stretch without a bucket after Rollins’ initial three. From there, the ‘Jackets found some offensive momentum with 13 more points before halftime.
The ‘Jackets showed fight to close the half, scoring eight straight points in breakaway fashion to cut the spread to 28-16. The Saints finished the half strong however, making 13 of 29 shots (44.8 percent) in the opening 20 minutes to command a 34-20 lead at the break.
Richmond provided a second-half spark, hitting a trey and scoring four more quick points including a loud dunk to help MSUB keep pace. The freshman had 17 of his 24 points while playing 18 of the final 20 minutes.
MSUB competed in the second half, losing the period just 43-40. The damage had been done early in the game however, as MSUB never got the deficit below double figures the rest of the night. Standley hit a jumper with 2:14 to go that made the score 77-54, giving SMU its largest lead of the game at 23 points. “Anytime you can get the deficit below 10 it’s a little different feel in the game, but we just never got there tonight,” Stevens said.
MSUB rallied to make 12 of 22 shots in the second half, and finished the night shooting 41.3 overall from the floor (19-for-46) and 35.0 percent from 3-point range (7-for-20). SMU meanwhile shot an even 50.0 percent overall (29-for-58), and made 48.1 percent of its threes (13-for-27). The Saints also had a 33-26 edge in rebounding, and committed just eight turnovers while forcing 12 by the ‘Jackets.
Kendall Denham had eight points for MSUB, while freshman Kobe Terashima led the team with four assists.
THE BUZZ: Richmond was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 14-17 all-time against SMU and is 8-7 in games played at Alterowitz Gym…SMU has won seven of the last nine games in the series dating back to 2014…Richmond’s eight made field goals in the game were a season high.
COMING UP: MSUB hosts Seattle Pacific University on Saturday night, playing another early game in a doubleheader with the women’s team. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. at Alterowitz Gym, and live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal.