(MSU Billings release)
ELLENSBURG, Wash. – After giving up a last second shot in regulation and coming up empty from long range in overtime, the Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets were handed the loss Saturday night against Central Washington University in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball game 111-102.
Jackson Price tied the game for Central Washington at the buzzer after he hit a fade away 3-pointer from the corner with multiple hands in his face. Then the Wildcats forced turnovers and made clutch free throws to make it a nine point contest at the end of the extra session.
Gauman Boykin was one of the overtime heroes for CWU and finished with 34 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals. Zellie Hudson had 26 points, eight rebounds. He made a steal at the midway point of overtime and dunked it home at the opposite end to mark a major turning point in the Wildcats favor.
Zack Rollins had a monumental offensive night for the Yellowjackets and finished with a career high 31 points (10-for-20) with seven made 3-pointers. Rollins also grabbed three rebounds and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The Yellowjackets shot an impressive 54-percent but in the end could not find a way past Central Washington, who remain undefeated at home at 5-0.
“Well, we’re certainly very disappointed with the loss,” said MSUB head coach Mick Durham. “We played winning basketball tonight but Central (Washington) refused to be denied in their late comeback. I was proud of the guys bouncing back after not playing very well Thursday. We’ll learn from it and move to the next one.”
With the loss, MSU Billings (7-5, 2-2 GNAC) fell to 0-2 on the weekend road trip after losing on Thursday to Northwest Nazarene 94-79. In the GNAC standings they are tied for fifth with Alaska Anchorage (7-5, 2-2), and Western Washington (8-6, 2-2). Central Washington (7-5, 1-3 GNAC) moved into a four-way split for eighth place.
The Yellowjackets energized early for a second straight game and led 11-4 in the first five minutes of play. The Wildcats worked their way back to even the score at 16-16 and eventually took the lead 28-26 after Jeryn Lucas made 3-point shots on three straight CWU possessions.
Showing no sign of panic, the Yellowjackets took back control nearing the end of the half. Seth Christieans set his feet for MSUB’s third charging call on defense and Zack Rollins made a 3-pointer from the corner in MSUB’s final possession of the half as they took a 43-37 lead into the locker room.
Both teams shot the basketball well in the first half. The Yellowjackets shot at a 53-percent pace compared to 51-percent for Central Washington. Melvin Newbern was a perfect 4-for-4 shooting with eight points for MSUB and a pair of assists.
A mixture of steady defense and outside shooting continued to help MSU Billings in the second half. Hudson made a block on Brendan Howard, then looped a reverse layup off the glass at the other end to get the Wildcats back to within one but Howard responded with a 3-pointer to keep the Yellowjackets firmly in front 58-54.
The ‘Jackets hovered around a 10 point advantage heading into the final five minutes of the game but Lewis Pope came up with two massive 3-pointers with under two minutes in the game, making it 79-78, the magnitude of which caused Durham to call a timeout for MSUB.
Out of the timeout, Tyler Green hit a 3-pointer off a Rollins pass to give the ‘Jackets breathing room, then took a layup inside on the following possession to keep MSUB in front 84-78 with 45 seconds on the clock.
Again, Central Washington battled back and a 3-pointer by Jackson Price eventually made it 85-83 MSUB with 28 seconds remaining. Tyler Green made one of two free throws after the Wildcats were forced to foul. A quick layup and a foul for CWU kept it a one possession game with eight ticks left.
Zack Rollins made both critical free throws for an 88-85 lead. Then fading away at the buzzer from the corner, Boykin hit the 3-pointer which sent the game into overtime.
The Yellowjackets were first to score in overtime but the Wildcats countered to keep it a one possession after two minutes came off the clock. At the 2:55 mark, the Wildcats began to turn the game in their favor for the last time. Zellie Hudson dove for an offensive rebound after CWU missed both free throw attempts and was promptly fouled.
This time Hudson made both to claim a 96-95 lead. On the other end, Tyler Green had the basketball stripped away just past half court by Hudson, who cashed in on the fast break for a one handed dunk to put CWU ahead by three 98-95.
Melvin Newbern Jr., who had been a critical starter for MSUB in the game picked up his fifth foul a dozen seconds later, sending the Wildcats back to the line for more free throws. Trailing 104-98, clutch shots continued to elude the Yellowjackets and Rollins was charged with a flagrant foul with 32 seconds left in overtime. Rollins had the ball stolen on the offensive end and picked up the foul attempting to prevent a Wildcat basket on the ensuing fast break.
The ‘Jackets battled the clock in the final minute of the game and Boykin added to his stellar point total on the free throw line. He made 15 of 17 from the stripe on the night to help seal the win for Central Washington.
The Yellowjackets will have positive things to take away from the loss Saturday night. In addition to a 34-point performance from Rollins, three other players scored double figures for MSUB. Tyler Green had 18 points and six assists. Melvin Newbern scored 16 and went 8-for-8 from the floor. Zharon Richmond played a team high 37 minutes and scored 14.
It was also a strong defensive effort for MSU Billings. The Yellowjackets took eight charges on the night including two in the first half by 6-11 center Seth Christiaens, who made an impact off the bench.
“We took eight charges on the road which is very difficult to do,” Durham commented on the team’s defensive performance. “It was something I’ve never witnessed before.”
The Yellowjackets largest lead was 11 at 18:14 in the second half while the Wildcats led by 10 with 23 seconds left in overtime. Central Washington won the inside battle with 48 points in the paint compared to 34 for MSUB. The Wildcats also had 26 points off turnovers compared to 14 for the ‘Jackets.
Gauman led all players with 34 points but remained one point short of MSUB’s Tyler Green for the GNAC single-game season high in 2018-19. Zellie Hudson finished with 26 points and eight rebounds for CWU.
NEXT UP: The Yellowjackets return home to face Western Oregon University (10-3, 3-1 GNAC) on January 10 at 7 p.m. They will cap off the weekend with a home game against Concordia University on January 12 at 7 p.m.
THE BUZZ: Zack Rollins was named St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the game for MSUB. It was his second 30-point performance this season…The Yellowjackets are now 6-20 all-time against the Wildcats and 3-7 over their last 10 game.