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MSU Billings men, women to host holiday tournaments Friday, Saturday

Posted at 3:54 PM, Nov 21, 2018

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – After playing three games this week, the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team will play two games in the MSUB Thanksgiving Tournament Friday night and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Opponents include California State Dominguez Hills and Black Hills State University.

Basketball fans can also catch neutral site games both days including Alaska Fairbanks versus Black Hills State Friday at 5:15 p.m. as well as Cal State Dominguez Hills versus Alaska Fairbanks Saturday at 5:15 p.m. All scheduled games will take place at Alterowitz Gymnasium. All games will be live streamed on the MSUB Stretch Internet Portal and live stats will also be available online.

“We’re excited for two quality games before we open conference play,” commented MSUB head coach Mick Durham. “We’re gaining confidence in each other as we play together more and being able to win recently has helped as well.”

LAST TIME OUT: Five players reached double figure point totals when MSU Billings prevailed over Rocky Mountain College 79-73 in an exhibition game at Fortin Center Monday night. Melvin Newbern Jr. led the team in scoring with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Zack Rollins was right behind with 17 points (6-for17) while Brendan Howard (13 pts), Zharon Richmond (13 pts) and Sven Jeuschede (11 pts) all chipped in on the strong offensive night for MSUB.

The Jackets never surrendered the lead and held off a late charge by Rocky Mountain College, who got back within one point with 1:17 remaining in the game. MSU Billings carries two straight regular season wins along with the victory over Rocky into the Thanksgiving Tournament this weekend.

MUST’VE BEEN MELVIN: Melvin Newbern Jr. has been showing why he was selected third-team All-American last season at North Dakota State College of Science. The transfer junior is third on the Yellowjackets in points per game (11.8) and has one double-double (against University of Mary). Newbern Jr. came up with a clutch 3-point play against Rocky Mountain College to seal the win over the crosstown rival Battlin’ Bears. He had 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the winning effort.

HOWARD THE ‘JACKET: Like Newbern Jr., freshman transfer Brendan Howard has made an immediate impact on his new team in 2018-19. Howard has averaged 15.0 points per game and is 25-for-50 from the field (.500). Howard is originally from Great Falls, Montana and returned to his home state after spending his first season in college as a redshirt at Eastern Washington, an NCAA Division I team in the Big Sky Conference. Howard is also the younger brother of MSUB assistant coach Bobby Howard.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Yellowjackets began the season on the road with a pair of exhibition games at Grand Canyon University and University of Nevada Las Vegas. The team then played a pair of games in the West Region Crossover Tournament in San Diego before finally returning to Billings for the home opener on November 14. Coach Durham has emphasized the need to be a strong team at home and so far, the sentiment has shown on court.

The team picked up wins over University of Mary and Minot State at home to lead off the homestand. Next up, the Yellowjackets finish with six more games at Alterowitz Gymnasium. The team does have a road contest until January 3 and they will have two chances to grab home wins over GNAC competition over the six game stretch with Alaska Fairbanks on November 27 and Alaska Anchorage on December 1.

‘JACKETS CASH IN ON FREE THROWS: The Yellowjackets made the most of their opportunities at the free throw line Monday night, going 10-for-10 from the line. The team averages 8.8 made free throws per game and will need to continue the upward trend to improve on a .648 on the season.

Scouting California State University Dominguez Hills
Game Day: Friday, November 23 – 7:30 p.m.
2018-19 Record: 1-2, 0-0 CCAA, 0-0 home, 0-1 away, 1-1 neutral
Head Coach: Steve Becker (sixth season)
2017-18 Record: 13-17, 10-12 CCAA, 6-7 home, 7-8 away, 0-2 neutral

The Toros are 1-1 against Great Northwest Athletic Conference teams this season and 1-2 overall. Last season CSUDH squeezed into the CCAA post-season tournament played a competitive game against No. 1 seed Cal Poly Pomona, falling 73-60. This year the Toros have two notable returners.

“Dominguez Hills is a new team like us and have played two GNAC teams and split,” said Durham. “We need to continue to make strides offensively and defensively to better prepare ourselves for conference.

Senior forward Mikey Hatfield started 20-of-27 games and averaged eight points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Hatfield dished out 23 assists, 10 steals, and 10 blocks. Sophomore guard Kolten Kresl averaged 8.8 points per game as a freshman and shot 39-percent from the field and 35-percent from 3-point range. Kresly scored a season high 30 points at Hawai’I Pacific on November 22.

Senior forward Michael Chavers has led the Toros in scoring two out of the first three games in 2018-19. Chavers is currently shooting .541 from the floor and has been fouled inside frequently. At 6-foot-5, Chavers reach has allowed him to make eight steals and 15 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Gabriel Hicks scored six points in the Toros’ season opener against Western Washington, but posted 19 and 18 against Simon Fraser and Dominican University of California respectively. Hicks has made a strong case to see more playing time this season after starting two games as a freshman.

The Yellowjackets are playing Cal State Dominguez Hills for the first time since 1981, their only meeting. The Toros won the game 61-52 in the NCAA Tournament so Friday night will be a chance for the ‘Jackets to get revenge from 39 years ago.

Scouting Black Hills State University
Game Day: Saturday, November 24 – 7:30 p.m.
2018-19 Record: 1-1, 0-0 RMAC, 0-0 home, 1-1 away, 0-0 neutral
Head Coach: Ryan Thompson (first season)
2017-18 Record: 15-12, 12-10 RMAC, 12-2 home, 3-10 away

In two games this season, the other Yellow Jackets have gone 1-1. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Black Hills State lost to Northern State 82-50. BHSU rebounded to win against Augustana University 65-62.

Fraser Malcolm has done the bulk of the scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game and 30.5 minutes. Malcolm is shooting .519 from the floor and .375 from 3-point range. The senior was named all-RMAC second team after averaging 14.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a junior.

Last season, the Yellow Jackets averaged 72.5 points per game (12th RMAC) and 69.6 points against (3rd RMAC). BHSU shot .356 from beyond the arc (12th RMAC) and .454 from the field (6th RMAC). The team held a +0.48 turnover margin and a 1.1 assist to turnover ratio. Black Hills State was sixth best in the RMAC in offensive rebounds (9.6 rpg) but struggled on defensive rebounds (23.4 rpg) and finished 13th out of 15 in the RMAC in the category.

The Yellow Jacket were a very good home team but struggled mightily on the road. Despite only three road wins all year, Black Hills State finished in the top half of the RMAC standings (seventh) and narrowly missed the conference playoffs.

Ryan Thompson is in his first season as head coach but has been assistant coach since 2016-17. He leads a roster made up of six freshmen, two sophomores, five juniors, and four seniors. BHSU has four players 6-foot-6 or above, including junior center Antonio Capley who stands 6-foot-11. The Yellow Jackets have a large international representation with Sweden, Serbia, and Scotland natives on the roster. Freshman guard Sawson Geuke is the only player originally from South Dakota.

MSU Billings is 11-7 all-time against Black Hills State. The two teams last playing in 2015 and MSUB prevailed 82-80.

MSUB’s women return to Alterowitz Gym for a pair of games hosting the 2018 Yellowjacket Classic sponsored by the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.

The three-team affair includes Valley City State University and Carroll College.

2018 Yellowjacket Classic Schedule
Friday, November 23 – 2 PM – Valley City State vs. MSU Billings
Saturday, November 24 – 2 PM – Valley City State vs. Carroll
Sunday, November 25 – 2 PM – Carroll vs. MSU Billings (Exhibition)

All three games of the tournament will feature live video with play-by-play commentary, as well as live statistics available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here. A five-player all-tournament team and a tournament most valuable player will be announced following the conclusion of Sunday’s contest.

“We are looking forward to our tournament this week, and I appreciate the Billings Hotel and Convention Center for sponsoring it once again,” commented MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Both Valley City State and Carroll are quality teams, and I hope people will come out and watch some good basketball over the Thanksgiving break. I believe these games will prepare us well for the opening weekend of GNAC play.”

The Yellowjackets (2-1) are coming off a split last week in their first road trip of the season. MSUB defeated Chadron State College 67-59 last Friday in Nebraska, before falling 88-69 last Saturday against South Dakota School of Mines in South Dakota. This weekend will be MSUB’s final non-conference contests, before opening Great Northwest Athletic Conference play at Simon Fraser University on November 29 and at Western Washington University on December 1.

“I like our offensive balance as of late,” Woodin said. “It is critical that we get the ball to the paint more, and have better interior defense. I was pleased with our bench play a week ago, as depth was a concern earlier in the season.”

CUNNINGHAM EMERGING OFFENSIVELY: Entering the season, junior forward Taylor Cunningham had reached double figures in scoring just twice and had never done it in consecutive games. She has reached or exceeded her previous career high of 12 points in each of the team’s first three games this season, as she has lived up to her expected role of being an effective scorer this season. Cunningham is shooting 42.9 percent from the field overall, and is also second on the team with 4.0 rebounds per game. MSUB will look to continue to build off her versatility under the basket and as a shooter, and she leads the team with 32.7 minutes per game.

COLLINS CONTINUES STRONG START: Much like Cunningham, sophomore point guard Hannah Collins has risen into her role as a starter this season. She leads the squad with 18.3 points per game, and has been a highly efficient shooter at 45.9 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from 3-point range, and 87.5 percent from the foul line. Collins is also nearing a 2.0 assist-turnover ratio, as she has 15 assists against just eight giveaways through the first three games. She ranks second on the team with 31.0 minutes per game, and has a team-best nine steals as well.

LEMELIN GETS THE NOD: Jeanann Lemelin earned her second career start last week, getting the nod against South Dakota Mines. A day after scoring a career-high 10 points against Chadron State, she was effective again as she hauled in a personal best seven rebounds to go along with three assists against the Hardrockers. Lemelin holds a strong 46.2 field-goal percentage and has made 4 of 9 threes on the year (44.4 percent).

WILLIAMS HAS BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE: Entering the season with a career high of just four points, junior forward Janessa Williams broke out of her shell with a 15-point performance against Chadron State. Williams got to the foul line and converted in the win, making 7 of 8 free throws to account for nearly half of her points. MSUB will look for Williams to continue providing an offensive spark off the bench, where she is averaging 14.7 minutes.

STAVISH SCORES SEASON HIGH: Senior Vanessa Stavish came within three points of her personal best, as she scored a season-high 15 points in the loss against SDSMT. Three of her six made field goals came from 3-point range, and she also grabbed four rebounds while playing 24 minutes. Overall on the season Stavish ranks third on the team with 9.7 points per game and is second with 10 assists.

LOOKING FOR A BOOST ON THE BOARDS: While MSUB protects the ball very well, with 53 assists against just 36 turnovers, the team has struggled in the rebounding department in its first three games. Entering the week, MSUB is being out-rebounded 43.7-29.3, a margin of minus-14.4.

Valley City State University Vikings
Friday, November 23 – 2 PM – Alterowitz Gym
2018-19 Record: 3-4
Head Coach: Vanessa Keeler-Johnson, 2nd season
2017-18 Record: 25-5, 13-3 North Star Athletic Association (NAIA)

In her first season in charge of the program, Vanessa Keeler-Johnson led the Vikings to a 25-5 record and an appearance in the first round of the NAIA national tournament in 2017-18.

VCSU is off to a 3-4 start on the season, and enters the Yellowjacket Classic with two straight wins including a 74-69 triumph at Concordia-Moorhead last Thursday and a 67-61 win against Bemidji State on Tuesday evening.

Three Vikings average in double figures in scoring, with Mackenzie Huber pacing the squad at 14.1 points per game. Kate Williams is averaging 12.7 and Alli Vandal is chipping in 12.1. Huber is also the team’s leading rebounder with 6.9 boards per game, while Williams leads the team with 3.0 assists. Hannah Schlecht joins the offensive trio as the fourth Vikings player to have started all seven games, while Emily Schafer and Dierra Diegel have also been in the starting five this season.

As a squad VCSU is out-scoring its opposition 68.9-64.4 through its first seven games, and holds a 39.3-32.3 advantage in rebounding. While the Vikings may have a size advantage over the ‘Jackets, they are susceptible to turning the ball over. The team’s 0.8 assist-turnover ratio (90 assists against 110 turnovers) should play favorably into MSUB’s defensive strategy.

VCSU will play Carroll College on Saturday at 2 p.m. after facing the ‘Jackets on Friday night.

The Series: Friday’s game will be the first-ever meeting between the teams.

Carroll College Saints
Sunday, November 25 – 2 PM – Alterowitz Gym (Exhibition)
2018-19 Record: 3-1
Head Coach: Rachelle Sayers, 8th season
2017-18 Record: 25-8, 14-4 Frontier

Entering the week ranked No. 7 in the NAIA top-25, Carroll has won three of its first four games to start the season. The Saints knocked off Westmont College 59-50 in their most recent game Monday, and will face VCSU on Saturday before Sunday’s non-counting exhibition game against MSUB.

Hannah Dean is the lone Saint averaging in double figures, as she scores 13.8 points per game while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 90.9 percent from the foul line. She is also the team’s second-leading rebounder, with 6.5 boards per game, and leader in steals with 13 total.

Danielle Wagner, Christine Denny, and Jaidyn Lyman have each also started all four games, and are averaging 7.3, 7.0, and 6.5 points per game, respectively. Denny leads the squad with 4.0 assists per game, while Wagner is Carroll’s top rebounder with 6.8. Emma Madsen has been a key player with 8.3 points off the bench, and is coming off a season-best 13 points in the team’s most recent game against Westmont.

The Saints hold a solid 63.3-48.3 scoring margin, and are out-rebounding the opposition 37.0-29.5 on the season. Carroll shoots 39.8 percent from the floor, 31.5 percent from 3-point range, and 82.1 percent from the free-throw line.

The Series: MSUB is 38-7 all-time against Carroll and is 23-4 in games played in Alterowitz Gym. The ‘Jackets have won 15 straight games between the teams dating back to 1990.

Last Time Out: The last time the sides played a counting game was on December 13, 2013, when MSUB won 62-47 in Billings.