(MSUB Athletics release)
NAMPA, Idaho – A high octane offense proved too much for the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team to handle, as they fell 94-79 to hot shooting Northwest Nazarene University Thursday night in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference game at Johnson Sports Center. The loss for the Yellowjackets snapped a five-game win streak and also represented their first conference loss of the season.
Obi Megwa paced the Nighthawks with 26 points and six rebounds while GNAC leading scorer Adonis Arms was held four points off his season scoring average, putting in 17 on 6-for-13 shooting. For the Yellowjackets, Melvin Newbern Jr. had a strong effort. The junior had 18 points and 14 rebounds for a team leading fourth double-double of the season. Sven Jeuschede contributed 11 points and three rebounds and Tyler Green also finished with 11 points MSUB.
The Yellowjackets jumped out to an 11-2 advantage to begin the game but the Nighthawks shooters came alive to retake the lead midway through the first half, holding the upper hand the rest of the way. NNU shot 61-percent from the field with Megwa draining 11-for-15 and a pair of 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the ‘Jackets failed to find their scoring touch and scored at a 37-percent clip in the contest. MSUB found some success from long range (11-for-27) but could not match the torrid scoring pace established early by the Nighthawks in the end.
“Our start was good but after that we just seemed to be back on our heels all night,” commented head coach Mick Durham after the game. “I have to give Northwest Nazarene credit. They played with a lot of confidence and proved they were capable of flat out scoring the basketball.”
The Yellowjackets (7-4, 2-1 GNAC) lost for the first time since November 23 and forfeited what was a three-way tie for first place in the conference standings, dropping down to fifth. Northwest Nazarene (8-2, 3-1 GNAC) moved ahead of MSUB with the win Thursday night. They will play Western Washington next on January 10.
FIRST HALF BREAKDOWN: Both teams had a rocky start in the first five minutes of the game with blocked shots and turnovers on both ends of the floor. The Yellowjackets settled in first and led 11-2 after a pair of free throws by Zharon Richmond capped off the run. The Nighthawks found their stride shortly after, and continued to find space to drive the lane, leading to an eventual three point lead with six minutes to play. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Hafeez Abdul helped keep the score even with four minutes to go but a 14-2 run at the end of the half led NNU to a 50-37 advantage at the break. Northwest Nazarene shot 64-percent compared to 37-percent for MSUB in the first frame.
SECOND HALF BREAKDOWN: The teams traded baskets in the early minutes of the second half, but high shooting percentages persisted for multiple Nighthawk players, enabling them to carry a 12-point margin to the 10 minute mark. The Nighthawks extended the lead to their largest of the night before Sven Jeuschede and Kobe Terashima connected from beyond the arc to get the Yellowjackets back to a 10-point deficit with five minutes remaining. With four players in double-digit scoring, NNU continued to shoot over 60-percent from the floor and ran away with the victory 92-74 in front of the home crowd.
The Nighthawks outscored the Yellowjackets in the paint 54-26 and had eight fast break points versus zero for MSU Billings. Steals were even at 6-6 and NNU came out on top in a block heavy game 9-4.
MSU Billings was slightly more efficient from 3-point range, connecting on 40-percent and 11-for-27 attempts. NNU finished the night at 30-percent from beyond the arc (6-for-20). MSUB had a good night from the free throw line and connected on 16 of 20 attempts (80-percent), slightly higher than NNU’s 77-percent (14-for-18).
A rash of turnovers and steals persisted in the opening minutes of the game but it proved to be a mirage as both teams took care of the basketball the rest of the way. NNU ended with 14 turnovers compared to 10 for MSUB. The Yellowjackets were out-rebounded 40-33 and the Nighthawks received 30 points from the bench compared to 25 for the ‘Jackets.
“I didn’t like how we played offensively all night,” said Durham. “We need to clean up a few things before Saturday night but I’m optimistic for the game against Central Washington we can play up to our capability.”
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Yellowjackets finish the weekend road trip with a game against Central Washington University (6-5, 0-3 GNAC) on Saturday, January 5 at 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Melvin Newbern Jr. was named St. Vincent Healthcare player of the game for the Yellowjackets…Newbern recorded 18 points and 14 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season…MSU Billings fell to 19-19 in the all-time series against Northwest Nazarene. The team is 3-7 against NNU over the last 10 matchups.