(MSUB Atheletics release)
BILLINGS – The last time the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball finished with more wins than losses in a season was 2012-13 but strong play and hard work by this year’s team has begun to turn the possibility into potential reality under first year head coach Mick Durham. The Yellowjackets (10-8, 5-5 GNAC) are tied for sixth place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings and they will conclude a four-game homestand with a pair of important conference matchups this week at Alterowitz Gymnasium.
MSU Billings will host Central Washington University (9-9, 3-7) on Thursday January 31 at 7 p.m. Then on Saturday, they welcome Northwest Nazarene University (13-3, 8-2) for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Both games will be available via live video stream video with statistics via MSUB’s stretch internet portal with the voice of Yellowjacket basketball Kurt Wilson on the call. The ‘Jackets lost road games to both CWU and NNU in January but have a chance to even the season series with both this weekend.
“Playing through teams in our league the second time doesn’t get any easier,” commented head coach Mick Durham. “We definitely felt the first time we played Central Washington we had trouble finishing late in the game. They hurt us with their penetration the first time but I’m excited for the second round to try and even the series up. I’d like to think we’ve improved some parts of our game and they probably have too. This is a big game for us.”
After this week’s games, the Yellowjackets are on the road for six of their final eight games. They will need to secure a top six record to make the GNAC championships scheduled for March 7-9 in Bellingham, Washington. Saint Martin’s University (16-2, 9-1) has separated themselves at the top of the league table but MSU Billings is among five teams separated by two games or less filling out positions three through seven.
The ‘Jackets have been especially effective at home with nine wins and three losses. MSUB assembled its most comprehensive performance of the season Saturday when they downed Seattle Pacific University 92-63. Five players reached double figure points and the ‘Jackets shot a season high 57-percent from the floor.
BIG GAME BRENDAN: Brendan Howard continued to impress in his freshman season last week. He shot 7-for-11 against Seattle Pacific and had a team high 20 points, two shy of his career best 22. Howard shot 3-for-3 from outside the arc and 3-for-4 on attempted free throws. Thursday, the Yellowjackets lost by two points to No. 23 Saint Martin’s but Howard contributed 17 points (7-for-11) and had four rebounds. Among players coming off the bench, Howard ranks first in the GNAC in points per game.
“Our six guys that have been scoring have been pretty consistent all year,” said Durham. “What we have been trying to do is bring up guys seven through 10 and I think last week they came up big for us. We’ve done a pretty good job of splitting minutes so far and it’s important to play our bench and give guys rest when they need it so we have to have depth.”