(MSUB Athletics release)
SEATTLE – Seattle Pacific University created just enough second half offense to down the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team 76-67 Thursday night in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference game at Brougham Pavilion. Gavin Long paced the Falcons with 20 points on six of nine shooting and Sam Simpson had six boards to help SPU outrebound MSU Billings 33-24.
“We competed and played pretty well against a good veteran team,” said head coach Mick Durham after the game. “We had some bad turnovers in the second half and they wore us out on the boards. I was proud of our guys giving us a chance on the road and making Seattle Pacific have to win it late.”
Tyler Green led the Yellowjackets with 18 points (5-for-11) and made all six free-throw attempts. Brendan Howard scored 16 points off the bench (7-for-11) and Zharon Richmond pitched in 13 points (5-for-10) with two blocks and two steals in the loss for MSUB.
The Yellowjackets (13-12, 8-9) fell to sixth place in the GNAC standings pending a result from Anchorage, Alaska where the Seawolves are hosting Western Washington. MSUB has three games left in the regular season and must finish sixth or higher to clinch a spot in the conference tournament. Seattle Pacific (17-6, 14-4) remained in contention for the GNAC regular season title with the victory and are now just a half-game behind Northwest Nazarene and Saint Martin’s University for first place.
Strong shooting by Green accelerated the Yellowjackets to a 10-point early lead but a late first half push by Seattle Pacific cut the deficit to 37-34 heading into break. MSU Billings shot 53-percent from the field and 60-percent from beyond the arc (6-for-10) in the first half, while Seattle Pacific connected on 53.6-percent of its first half shots and made 20-percent from long range (2-for-10). Green scored 13 of his 18 points in the opening 20 minutes. Long had nine points for SPU.
Green connected on three free-throws in the opening minute of the second half to give MSUB breathing room with a five point advantage, but Coleman Wooten helped SPU make up the margin quickly with his three pointer to tie it 48-48.
After trading baskets for several minutes, Wooten gave SPU the lead for good with a triple at the six minute mark which spurred a 9-3 run for the Falcons. Sven Jeuschede’s outside shooting got the ‘Jackets back to a four point margin but the effort was too little too late as Harry Cavell put the nail in the coffin with a long range 3-point shot, making it 72-65 SPU.
MSUB was forced to foul as the clock ran down and the two teams split the season series, each having won on their respective home court.
The Yellowjackets shot 49-percent in the game (25-for-51) and made eight three-pointers (40-percent). MSUB also made nine of 10 free throws and Green went 6-for-6 from the stripe. Howard led the ‘Jackets with six rebounds and Melvin Newbern Jr. had five, despite being limited to 13 minutes of playing time.
The Falcons hit 47-percent of shots from the floor and went 7-for-24 from beyond the arc (29.2-percent). Sharif Khan made an impact with five of SPU’s 10 steals and the Falcons won the turnover battle 18-14. Simpson had six boards and Nathan Streufert finished with five. In addition to Long’s team-high 20 points, Wooten recorded 14 points as did Nikhil Lizotte for SPU.
The Yellowjackets stayed out of foul trouble most of the night and only Zack Rollins picked up a fourth personal foul late in the contest. Green led the team with 37 minutes played with Rollins close behind at 35. Seattle Pacific grabbed 10 offensive rebounds compared to three for MSUB and the Falcons scored 40 points in the paint compared to MSUB at 26.
THE BUZZ: MSU Billings defeated Seattle Pacific 92-63 at Alterowitz Gymnasium on January 26 and shot a season high 57.1-percent. Howard posted 20 points in the game for MSUB…MSU Billings fell to 31-43 all-time against the Falcons and have gone 1-9 over the last 10 matchups with SPU…Tyler Green was named St. Vincent Healthcare player of the game for the Yellowjackets.
UP NEXT: A battle for one of the final three playoff positions continues on the road as the Yellowjackets play No. 12 Saint Martin’s University (21-4, 14-3) on Saturday, February 23 at 7 p.m. at Marcus Pavilion. The Saints were idle on Thursday night but remain the top ranked team in the GNAC.