(MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS – Valentine’s Day will fittingly mark the 13th annual Pink Night at Alterowitz Gym on Thursday, highlighting a busy weekend of Montana State University Billings basketball on both the women’s and men’s sides.
Thursday night’s doubleheader begins with the Yellowjacket men taking on Simon Fraser University at 5:15 p.m., and the women will follow at 7:30 p.m. against No. 7 Northwest Nazarene University. All fans who wear pink on Thursday will receive free admission to both games, and all proceeds from the evening will be donated to the St. Vincent Healthcare EVA Project.
The MSUB women spent Monday evening having dinner with members of the EVA Project, which is focused on supporting those with breast cancer and striving to find a cure for the disease. Thursday’s game marks the 13th straight year that the Yellowjackets have featured a Pink Night on their schedule, and breast cancer survivors in attendance will be recognized in a pregame ceremony.
Other fundraisers at Thursday’s games will include a 50-50 raffle, and pink t-shirts will be on sale for $20 each.
“Our players and coaches look forward to our annual Think Pink game,” said MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin. “We enjoy meeting the local survivors who attend the game, and hearing the courageous stories of what they have gone through.”
The Yellowjackets (10-10, 6-8 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) will then host Central Washington University on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. in the opening game of a doubleheader with the men’s team. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available for all games over the weekend through the MSUB Stretch Internet portal online here.
“Earlier this week we toured the St. Vincent Healthcare breast cancer center, and met with survivors at their monthly meeting,” said Woodin. “They are a special group of women, and we want to raise funds to help with the EVA Project. We are looking forward to providing them and their families with a great evening.”
MAKE-A-WISH SATURDAY: The MSUB Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is coordinating a Make-A-Wish fundraiser for Saturday’s doubleheader. Six local Make-A-Wish children will be honored at halftime of the men’s game against WWU, and will be presented with gifts from Yellowjacket athletes. Make-A-Wish stars will be sold in the lobby for $1 each, and individuals can fill in their name and post their star to the bulletin board in the lobby. All proceeds from the star sales will be donated back to the Billings Make-A-Wish organization.
FAN FEAST: MSUB campus dining partner Sodexo will feature a special catered dinner on Saturday evening beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday’s meal options include a carved ham dinner with a beverage and dessert for $12, or a personal pan pizza with a 24-ounce fountain soda for $8. An additional seating area for dining will be provided in the lobby outside Alterowitz Gym.
MSUB split a pair of games last week, defeating the University of Alaska 84-65 last Thursday before a 72-57 loss at the hands of No. 10 University of Alaska Anchorage. The ‘Jackets are on the road at Western Oregon University and Concordia University next week, before finishing the regular season at home against Western Washington University (Feb. 28) and Simon Fraser University (March 2).
“It is great to be home, and we are playing two talented teams that beat us decisively four weeks ago,” commented Woodin. “I think we have improved as of late, but we will need to play great transition defense and limit our turnovers against their pressure.”
HALL OF FAME WEEKEND: This weekend’s doubleheaders will sandwich the 2019 MSUB Hall of Fame & Distinction induction ceremony, which is on Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn. Tickets are still available for purchase at $30 each by calling 406-657-2369 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This year’s inductees, Matt Schoonover (baseball), Shantell (Marquis) Wirtzberger (women’s basketball), and Navin Marimuthu (men’s tennis), will be honored in a ceremony on the court at halftime of Saturday’s men’s game. More information on the MSUB Hall of Fame and Distinction and this year’s inductees can be found online here.
THE RACE TO BELLINGHAM: With six regular-season games left on the schedule, the Yellowjacket women are in the thick of an intense race to claim a top-six spot in the standings and earn a berth into the 2019 GNAC Championships running March 7-9 at Western Washington University. Entering Thursday’s game, MSUB is in a three-way tie for sixth place with Concordia University and Seattle Pacific University. The Yellowjackets are also just one game behind fifth-place Western Washington University.
The ‘Jackets are looking to make it back-to-back appearances in the conference tournament for the first time since 2013-14, when the team completed a string of four-straight conference tournament appearances dating back to its inception during the 2010-11 season.
“We are treating this week a lot like playoff games,” Woodin said. “Several teams are jockeying for those final spots, and it is time that we step it up. We need to register a win against a team above us in the standings. It will take the collective efforts of our team, and we need to find offensive balance between our posts and guards.”
SHELLEY STRENGTHENS FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR CASE: Taryn Shelley has continued to strengthen her case for the 2018-19 GNAC Freshman of the Year, and she had perhaps her best performance of the season last week with a 25-point, 18-rebound double-double against Alaska in just 21 minutes. She is third in the GNAC with 8.5 rebounds per game, second in blocked shots with 2.0 per game, and is second in the league among freshmen in both points (10.9 ppg) and field-goal percentage at 48.4.
COLLINS HANGS ON TO SCORING LEAD: Sophomore Hannah Collins continues to lead the GNAC in scoring, with an average of 15.5 points per game. She is shooting 40.7 overall from the floor, 35.5 percent from 3-point range, and ranks fifth in the league in foul shooting at 86.9 percent. Collins also leads the team with 69 assists, averaging 3.6 per game to rank eighth in the league.
CUNNINGHAM NEARS CAREER HIGH: Junior Taylor Cunningham put up 18 points in the win over Alaska last week, coming within two points of her personal best. She then had a comprehensive effort against Anchorage with seven points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while playing 35 minutes in the game. Cunningham remained among conference leaders in 3-point field-goal percentage, as she enters this week ranking No. 5 at 43.5 percent.
Cunningham maintained her status as one of the league’s more versatile players, as she is one of just three players in the GNAC to record at least one point, rebound, and assist in every game she has played this season. Only Alexis Pana and Sadie Mensing of Central Washington University have also achieved this feat.
STAVISH PROVIDES LEADERSHIP: Senior Vanessa Stavish has been at her best as of late, as she has scored in double figures in each of the last three games to boost her season average to a team-third best 11.0. Stavish hit five 3-pointers last week, upping her career total to 140 which tied Kalli (Stanhope) Allen for No. 9 in MSUB history. Next up on the list is Joan Langford, who made 149 threes in a career that spanned from 2000-03. Stavish is also No. 9 with 422 career 3-point field goal attempts.
LEMELIN DISHES OUT CAREER HIGH: Junior Jeanann Lemelin set a new standard with a personal-best eight assists in MSUB’s win over the University of Alaska last week. The Billings native followed that with six more against Anchorage, giving her 14 total on the weekend and 51 on the season which is tied for second most on the team.
Lemelin is taking full advantage of her role as a starter this season, putting together far-and-away her best campaign yet in all statistical categories.
HULL HAULS IN CAREER HIGH: Like Lemelin, senior Brina Hull has elevated her game and is having her best season yet. Last week the Colstrip native matched her personal best with seven rebounds against Alaska, while scoring nine points for her third-highest total of the season so far. Hull needs seven more points, five more rebounds, and four more 3-pointers to surpass her personal season bests in those categories. She already has career highs in assists (21), field goals (34), and steals (13), and her percentages from the field (39.5) and long range (38.6) are career bests as well.
ST. JOHN REACHES DOUBLE FIGURES: Redshirt freshman Emily St. John entered double-figure territory for the first time last week, as she made 7 of 8 free throws and finished with 10 points against Anchorage.
No 7 Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks
Thursday, February 14 – 7:30 PM – Alterowitz Gym
2018-19 Record: 21-1, 13-1 GNAC
Head Coach: Steve Steele, 2nd season
2017-18 Record: 22-5, 18-2 GNAC (T1st Place, NCAA D2 West Region 1st Round)
First Meeting: No. 4 NNU 102, MSUB 75 (January 19, 2019 at Nampa, ID)
The Nighthawks’ undefeated streak was snapped at 16-0 with a 76-73 loss to Simon Fraser University on January 26 on the road. Since then, NNU has gotten back on track with four straight wins, and is the No. 7-ranked team in the NCAA entering the week tied with Alaska Anchorage for the top spot in the GNAC standings.
Last week, NNU defeated Saint Martin’s 70-43 and Seattle Pacific 90-71 in a pair of convincing road victories. The Nighthawks’ game against Central Washington, which was scheduled for Tuesday evening, was postponed until next Monday due to inclement weather.
The most balanced team from top-to-bottom in the GNAC, NNU has 10 players averaging more than 14 minutes and 5.6 points per game. Avery Albrecht is the team’s top scorer at 13.6 points per game, and she shoots 47.9 percent from 3-point range and 91.3 percent from the foul line which both rank second in the GNAC.
Ellie Logan is also in double figures with 11.7 points per game, and is second on the squad with 5.2 rebounds. Marina Valles runs the point for NNU, and is averaging a team-best 3.9 assists to go along with 10.3 points. Along with Albrecht, Logan, and Valles, Raquel Jardine has also started all 22 games. McKenna Walker has started 21 of 22, meaning NNU has used an identical starting lineup in all but one game this season.
NNU has the fourth-best scoring offense in the NCAA, averaging 85.5 points per game. Combined with just 62.3 points per game allowed, NNU is No. 7 in the nation with a scoring margin of plus-23.2. The Nighthawks also enjoy a 40.1-33.8 advantage in the rebounding department, while shooting 46.8 percent overall, 38.8 percent from 3-point range, and 76.3 percent from the free-throw line.
The Series: MSUB is 18-14 all-time against NNU and has a 10-3 record in games played at Alterowitz Gym. MSUB has lost back-to-back games at home, and five of the last six overall in the series.
Last Time Out: Logan erupted for a career-high 29 points and NNU came within a point of its season high in the 102-75 blowout last month. Cunningham led MSUB with 16 points while Shelley had a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Central Washington University Wildcats
Saturday, February 16 – 5:15 PM – Alterowitz Gym
2018-19 Record: 14-7, 9-5 GNAC
Head Coach: Randi Richardson-Thornley, 2nd season
2017-18 Record: 15-14, 11-9 GNAC (5th place)
First Meeting: CWU 93, MSUB 58 (January 17, 2019 at Ellensburg, WA)
The Wildcats are closing in on a berth into the GNAC Championships, currently sitting in fourth place and three full games clear of the three teams tied for sixth. CWU picked up a big road sweep last week, topping Seattle Pacific 74-56 and Saint Martin’s 84-62 to earn some breathing room in the standings. It’ll be a tough finish for CWU, which has to play No. 7 NNU, No. 10 UAA, and third-place Simon Fraser among its final five games after Saturday’s contest in Billings.
GNAC Player of the Year candidate Alexis Pana returned to the court last week, after missing the previous two games for CWU. She is No. 2 in the GNAC in scoring at 15.3 points per game, while leading the league in assists (5.5 apg), and 3-point field-goal percentage (50.0), and ranking fourth in steals (2.4 spg).
Sadie Mensing is another key player for the Wildcats, as she is averaging 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game while starting all 21. Kaelie Flores is second on the team with 12.5 points per game, and her 34 blocks are the most on the squad. Kassidy Malcolm is No. 2 in the GNAC with 8.9 rebounds per game, and is just missing a double-double average with 10.8 points as well.
In addition to Pana, Taylor Shaw is also a threat from the arc as she leads the team with 47 makes and is hitting at a clip of 34.6 percent from distance.
The Wildcats out-score their opposition 76.5-68.2, and hold a narrow 37.7-37.4 advantage in rebounding. CWU is shooting 46.6 percent overall, 35.9 percent from 3-point range, and 73.1 percent from the free-throw line.
The Series: MSUB is 25-12 all-time against CWU and is 11-4 in games played in the Magic City. The Yellowjackets’ last home loss was on February 23, 2017.
Last Time Out: Central out-paced MSUB 44-24 over the opening 20 minutes, and the ‘Jackets never caught up in the 35-point setback in Washington. Flores led all players with 24 points, while Malcolm had 19 and eight rebounds and Pana contributed 18 and nine boards. Cunningham led MSUB with 13 points and Shelley narrowly missed a double-double with a dozen points and nine boards.