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MSU Billings women open GNAC play on road

Posted at 6:07 PM, Nov 28, 2018
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(MSU Billings release)

BILLINGS – A taste of Great Northwest Athletic Conference play is on tap for the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team, which takes to the road this weekend.

The Yellowjackets (3-1, 0-0 GNAC) begin their 20-game conference slate at Simon Fraser University (4-2, 0-1) on Thursday and at Western Washington University (5-2, 1-0) on Saturday. Both games will tip off at 7 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Mountain, and live video and live statistics will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.

“I am looking forward to seeing how we perform at SFU and WWU,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “Both of them are going to be tough conference games, and their team strengths and styles of play are very different. They are well coached teams with strong traditions, and each of them returns a lot of key players.”

While this weekend signals the start of league play, the ‘Jackets won’t have another GNAC contest until after the new year. MSUB will play Rocky Mountain College in an exhibition game next Friday at Alterowitz Gym, before facing NCAA D2 opponents Maryville University and Angelo State University at the Daytona Beach Shootout on Dec. 18-19. MSUB will resume conference play on Jan. 3 at home against Saint Martin’s University, and it will be 18-straight GNAC games from then through the beginning of March.

“It will be great to see how we measure up against these teams in early December, and we won’t see them again for three more months,” Woodin said, as the ‘Jackets close the year with their final two league games against WWU and SFU. “Our 3-point shooting will be key for us. I am excited to see how we shoot the ball away from home, as we were too inconsistent on our last road trip. We must continue to keep our turnovers to a minimum as well.”

MSUB enters conference play with momentum, after back-to-back wins over nationally-ranked NAIA schools. The ‘Jackets toppled No. 16 Valley City State 79-52 last Friday, before edging No. 7 Carroll College 63-61 on Sunday for a pair of wins at the 2018 Yellowjacket Classic sponsored by the Billings Hotel and Convention Center.

COLLINS HEADLINES ALL-TOURNEY TEAM: Sophomore point guard Hannah Collins was named the MVP of last week’s Yellowjacket Classic, after leading the Yellowjackets in both victories on their home floor. Collins racked up 30 total points and 11 assists against just three turnovers in the games. Against Valley City State, Collins’ eight assists went down as a career high. She has gotten off to a stellar start in the shooting department, hitting at 43.8 percent overall, 50.0 percent from long range (10-for-20), and 90.5 percent from the foul line (19-for-21).

SHELLEY STRONG ON BOARDS: Freshman forward Taryn Shelley had her most impactful rebounding performance of the year against VCSU, as she hauled in eight in just 15 minutes of action. Overall she has had at least five rebounds in every game this season and leads the team with an average of 6.0 per game.

REBOUNDING A KEY FOCUS: The ‘Jackets had their best rebounding margin of the year against Carroll at minus-4 (37-33), but the team is being out-rebounded 43.0-31.3 (minus-11.7) overall which ranks 11th in the GNAC. MSUB should have a good matchup against SFU, which ranks ninth in the GNAC in rebounding at minus-0.5. The team will have its work cut out against WWU however, as the Vikings are the early GNAC leader at plus-12.3 through their first seven games.

CUNNINGHAM KEEPS IT UP: Junior forward Taylor Cunningham again matched her career high with 15 more points in the win over Valley City State. She has reached double figures in every game this season, and is the team’s second-leading rebounder with 3.8 per contest. Cunningham has also been a contributor to the Yellowjackets’ solid assist-turnover ratio of plus-1.7, as she has eight assists against just four giveaways.

PROTECTING THE ROCK: While the ‘Jackets are last in the league in rebounding, they make up for it by ranking first in the GNAC in assist-turnover ratio and second in turnover margin. MSUB averages 17.8 assists per game while leading the league with just 10.8 turnovers. MSUB is also No. 3 in the GNAC in steals with 10.3 per game, which contributes to 18.3 turnovers by opponents for a turnover margin of plus-7.50. This is another area where MSUB should have success this weekend, as SFU ranks ninth in the league in turnover margin (minus-2.33) and WWU ranks 10th (minus-4.71).

QUICK STOP ATOP SEATTLE: The ‘Jackets flew into Seattle on Wednesday, before completing their trip north to Bellingham and Burnaby for the weekend’s games. The team made a stop at the infamous Space Needle on a rainy Wednesday morning. The squad will be back in the Emerald City on Jan. 31 to take on GNAC foe Seattle Pacific University at Brougham Pavilion.

Simon Fraser University Clan
Thursday, November 29 – 7 PM – Burnaby, B.C.
2018-19 Record: 4-2, 0-1 GNAC
Head Coach: Bruce Langford, 18th season
2017-18 Record: 14-15, 9-11 GNAC (6th place)

The Clan were bested by Western Washington University 70-62 in their GNAC opener on Tuesday evening in Burnaby, B.C. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for SFU, which will be off until Dec. 17 after Thursday’s game against MSUB.

Returning veteran Sophie Swant leads her team in scoring with 15.2 points per game, and is second on the squad with 6.5 rebounds. Also in double figures in scoring are Jessica Jones (14.5 ppg), and Tayler Drynan (12.2 ppg).

Samantha Beauchamp leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game, while also contributing 8.0 points. As a team SFU is nearly even in the rebounding category, averaging 36.2 per game while allowing 36.7.

Long-time head coach Bruce Langford has utilized an identical starting lineup in the first six games, with Ozioma Nwabuko and Sienna Lenz joining Swant, Jones, and Drynan in the first rotation.

As a team SFU out-scores the opposition 71.7-68.2, shoots 42.3 percent from the field, 36.2 percent from 3-point range, and 72.2 percent from the foul line.

The Series: MSUB is 9-10 all-time against SFU and has a 2-6 record in games played in the West Gym. SFU has won four of the last five games dating back to the 2016 season, and MSUB hasn’t won on the road since Feb. 1, 2014.

Last Time Out: The teams split last year’s meetings, with MSUB winning 70-61 in Billings on Dec. 2, 2017 and SFU claiming a tight 77-74 win in Burnaby on Feb. 22, 2018.

Western Washington University Vikings
Saturday, December 1 – 7 PM – Bellingham, WA
2018-19 Record: 5-2, 1-0 GNAC
Head Coach: Carmen Dolfo, 28th season
2017-18 Record: 12-16, 8-12 GNAC (T-7th place)

The Vikings won their fourth straight game on Tuesday with the conference-opening victory over the Clan. The Vikings have already notched a signature win this season, topping No. 16 Azusa Pacific 77-74 in overtime on Nov. 17. WWU will host the Viking Holiday Hoops Classic Dec. 17-18 in their next action after Saturday’s game against the ‘Jackets.

Kelsey Rogers has emerged as one of the top players in the GNAC so far, as she leads the team with 15.4 points per game. She is 1 of 3 double-figure scorers for WWU, with Dani Iwami (13.4 ppg) and Anna Schwecke (13.1 ppg) also contributing heavily on the offensive end.

Schwecke is one of the top rebounders in the conference, as she leads the team with 8.7 caroms per game. Emma Duff is close behind with 7.6, while Rogers adds 6.0 to the league’s top rebounding team.

Iwami, Schwecke, Duff, and Lexie Bland have started all seven games for WWU, while Rogers has emerged into a starting role over the last few weeks. WWU narrowly out-scores its opposition 71.2-70.9, shoots 40.5 percent from the floor, 26.3 percent from 3-point range, and 75.2 percent from the free-throw line.

The Series: MSUB is 16-22 all-time against WWU and is 5-13 in games played at Sam Carver Gym. The ‘Jackets have won five of the last seven games between the teams, and are 3-3 in their last six games in Bellingham.

Last Time Out: The ‘Jackets won both games a season ago, with a 75-62 win in Billings on Nov. 30, 2017 and a 76-63 triumph in Bellingham on Feb. 24, 2018.