MSU Billings, Rocky Mountain College men, women to meet again

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – Paying tribute to an athletics history that dates back more than 90 years, the Montana State University Billings men’s and women’s basketball teams will host cross-town rival Rocky Mountain College during Eastern Montana College Throwback Weekend at Alterowitz Gym.

The Yellowjacket women (3-3) will host No. 18 Rocky (8-1) on Friday evening at 7 p.m. in an exhibition contest. The Yellowjackets knocked off then-No. 24 RMC 63-62 in dramatic fashion when the teams first met on November 6 at the Fortin Center. “We are excited to play Rocky and see how much we have improved in the past month,” said MSUB women’s head coach Kevin Woodin. “Our game there was an exciting one, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to win. I am hopeful we will play better this time. It’s a great game for our community, and both teams get up for it.”

Coming off three straight victories, the MSUB men’s team (5-3) will host the Bears on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The game will count on MSUB’s schedule but will be an exhibition matchup for Rocky. The MSUB men topped RMC 79-73 at the Fortin Center on November 19. “We are excited about our second game with Rocky,” commented MSUB head coach Mick Durham. “I think we have improved since our last meeting, but we also feel that we will need to play better. Rocky is very talented and experienced, and will help us keep making positive strides. It is a game in which we will need to control our emotions throughout.”

Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics for both games will be available online through MSUB’s Stretch Internet portal here.

Both MSUB teams will wear black and yellow EMC throwback jerseys for the games, honoring the rich tradition of Yellowjacket Athletics. The men’s basketball program was founded in 1927, the inaugural year of the university which was opened as Eastern Montana Normal School. The 2018-19 season marks the 91st of men’s basketball. The first season of women’s basketball at MSUB was 1973-74, as 2018-19 marks the 45th season.

Local Cell Plus stores will be selling tickets to this weekend’s games at a discounted price of $2 per ticket. There is also a raffle for a new iPhone XR, and the winner will be drawn on Saturday at the game. For more details click here.

MSUB campus catering partner Sodexo will feature its Fan Feast for both games over the weekend as well. Friday’s menu will include meatball sub sandwiches, and on Saturday it will feature fry bread tacos. The weekend dinner special will be $8 and includes a drink.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
No. 18 Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears at MSU Billings Yellowjackets
Friday, December 7 – 7 PM – Alterowitz Gym

The MSUB women are coming off a tough start to Great Northwest Athletic Conference play, as they lost 81-74 at Simon Fraser University last Thursday and 63-57 at Western Washington University last Saturday.

After Friday’s exhibition game against Rocky, the ‘Jackets will close out the 2018 calendar year with a pair of NCAA D2 games at the Daytona Beach Shootout in Florida. MSUB will play Maryville University on December 18 at 1 p.m. Eastern/11 a.m. Mountain, and will take on Angelo State University the following morning at 11 a.m. Eastern/9 a.m. Mountain.

TAKING DOWN RANKED OPPONENTS: MSUB will look not only for a season sweep against Rocky in Friday’s game, but to make it a perfect 4-0 record against NAIA nationally-ranked opponents this season. In addition to the win over then-No. 24 Rocky, the ‘Jackets topped No. 16 Valley City State 79-52 on November 23, before a gutsy 63-61 win over No. 7 Carroll College in an exhibition game on November 25.

Dating back to last season’s Elite Eight run, MSUB is 6-1 in its last seven games against nationally-ranked opposition overall. The only loss during that span was a 91-73 defeat at the hands of No. 1 Ashland University in last year’s NCAA quarterfinals. Before the season-ending loss, MSUB topped No. 13 Alaska Anchorage, No. 23 UC San Diego, and No. 19 Hawaii Pacific to win the NCAA D2 west region title.

The ‘Jackets will have at least four more games this year against top-25 teams, as they’ll face No. 10 Northwest Nazarene University and No. 13 University of Alaska Anchorage twice each during conference play. The two were picked first and second, respectively, in the 2018-19 GNAC preseason coaches poll, and have thus far lived up to the expectations.

COLLINS LEADS THE CHARGE: The only player to score in double figures in all six of MSUB’s games so far, sophomore point guard Hannah Collins leads the team with 17.5 points per game. She got off to a good start with 34 points in her first two GNAC games of the year, and played all but 11 minutes last week. Collins has been nearly automatic from the foul line this season, making 32 of 35 attempts for a percentage of 91.4.

It was the Great Falls native who emerged the hero the last time MSUB and RMC met, as she sunk a game-clinching free throw with just 0.3 left on the clock in the one-point win for the ‘Jackets. Collins led all players with 20 points, while adding five assists and playing 35 minutes against RMC.

CUNNINGHAM STEADY ALL AROUND: Junior forward Taylor Cunningham has been one of the Yellowjackets’ most consistent all-around players and has started all six games this season. She is one of just three players on MSUB’s roster to have points, rebounds, and assists in every single game, and among those is the only one with multiple rebounds in every game of the season. Cunningham has also had at least one steal in 5 of 6 games, and has scored in double figures in 5 of 6 as well.

One of the Yellowjackets’ strong suits this season has been their ball security, as the team currently leads the GNAC with an assist-turnover ratio of 1.4. Cunningham has been a big part of that, as she ranks No. 4 in the league with a ratio of 2.8. She has 11 assists and has committed just four turnovers. She had a solid eight-point, five-rebound effort in 31 minutes the last time out against Rocky.

‘JACKETS LOOK TO EXPERIENCED STAVISH: MSUB’s third-leading scorer this year is senior Vanessa Stavish, who averages 13.0 points and is coming off a big weekend with 35 total in the two conference games. Stavish made 8 of 16 shots – including 4 of 7 threes – against Simon Fraser, which resulted in a career-high 21 points last Thursday.

Stavish was the other Yellowjacket to reach double figures in the last game against Rocky, as she scored 13 while hauling in a team-high eight rebounds in 35 minutes.

Though Friday’s statistics won’t count among official records, Stavish needs just two more 3-pointers to break into MSUB’s career top-10. She has currently made 123, and will likely surpass Kayla McPherson (125) for the No. 10 spot in the Yellowjackets’ next two counting games later this month.

No. 18 Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears
2018-19 Record: 8-1, 2-0 Frontier Conference
Head Coach: Wes Keller, 5th season
2017-18 Record: 23-9, 11-7 Frontier

Aside from a 65-52 setback against Corban University on November 16, Rocky has had a spotless start to its 2018-19 campaign. The Bears enter Friday’s game with five straight victories, and are coming off a 67-60 win over the University of Providence last Saturday. The Argos are the one common opponent between MSUB and RMC, as the ‘Jackets won 73-65 against UP on November 9.

RMC will head to Chandler, Arizona after Friday’s exhibition contest, for three games running December 19-21.

Alecia Chamberlin leads the Bears with 14.0 points per game, and is the lone Rocky player to have started all nine games thus far. As a team RMC has out-scored its opposition by a comfortable margin of 25.0, as it averages 74.6 points per game while surrendering just 49.6.

The Bears have also had success on the boards, with a rebounding margin of plus-2.7 (34.6-31.9). RMC is shooting 49.2 percent from the field, 30.6 percent from 3-point range, and 71.8 percent from the foul line.

The Series: Among counting games between the teams, MSUB is 63-14 all-time against RMC. The ‘Jackets hold a record of 40-5 in home games, in a series that dates back to MSUB’s inaugural season in 1973. MSUB has won 18 in-a-row and hasn’t lost at home in a counting game since January 13, 1982.

Last Time Out: Though the game earlier this year won’t register on the official record, the ‘Jackets squeaked out the one-point win thanks in large part to shooting 48.1 percent from the field. Chamberlin led the Bears with 18 points, while Markaela Francis (12) and Alyssa Big Man (11) were also in double figures.

MEN’S BASKETBALL
Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears at MSU Billings Yellowjackets
Saturday, December 8 – 7 PM – Alterowitz Gym

The Yellowjackets’ recent stretch of strong performances have been highlighted by Tyler Green and Zack Rollins, who have both been selected Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week in successive fashion at the end of November. Rollins posted a career high 30 points Saturday night to help MSUB over Alaska Anchorage 89-74. Rollins shot 9-for-15 from the field and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line against the Seawolves.

On Tuesday, Rollins scored 16 points against Alaska Fairbanks in the GNAC opener and the ‘Jackets won 79-76. Green won the award the previous week and currently leads the team with 15.0 points per game and a .521 3-point field goal percentage (25-for-48). Green had back-to-back 19-point performances against Cal State Dominguez Hills and Black Hills State and has scored double-digit points in 7 of 8 games.

The Yellowjackets are in the middle of a stretch with 10 of 11 games at home. Since defeating Rocky Mountain College in an exhibition game on November 19, the Yellowjackets have wins over Black Hills State, Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Anchorage. MSU Billings lost to California State Dominguez Hills 75-73 on a 3-point buzzer beater on November 23, breaking up an otherwise perfect home record in 2018-19.

The Yellowjackets’ and Battlin’ Bears’ crosstown rivalry goes back to 1929. MSU Billings owns the all-time series between the two sides 89-81. When MSUB hosts, the ‘Jackets are 52-30. Across town, Rocky Mountain holds the advantage 32-25. In the last 10 matchups, the Yellowjackets hold a 4-6 record.

Brendan Howard did not start the last two games, but has had no mitigation in terms of point production. Howard is second in points per game with 13.7 and is shooting 51.9 percent from the floor and 72.2 percent from the free-throw line. Howard has been reliable driving to the basket and put up 19 points against Alaska Anchorage on Saturday night.

Melvin Newbern Jr. has a pair of doubles-doubles as a junior in 2018-19. The first came against University of Mary with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Newbern Jr. put up 22 points and 11 boards versus Black Hills State 10 days later.

YELLOWJACKET FAST FACTS:
– Games played: 8
– Points per game: 75.8
– Field Goal Percentage: 47.8
– Three Point Percentage: 39.0
– Free Throw Percentage: 73.6
– Rebounds per game: 34.1
– Assists per game: 14.0
– Turnovers per game: 15.4
– Assist to Turnover ratio: +0.9
– Steals per game: 6.5
– Blocks per game: 3.5

PROBABLE MSUB STARTERS:
F – Zack Rollins, 6-6, Sr. (14.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 17 ast, 7 blk, 8 stl)
F – Zharon Richmond, 6-7, So. (10.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 12 ast, 6 blk, 6 stl)
F – Melvin Newbern Jr., 6-4, Jr. (12.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 12 ast, 4 blk, 8 stl)
G – Tyler Green, 5-9, Jr. (13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 12 ast, 6 blk, 6 stl)
G – Sven Jeuschede, 6-2, Sr. (4.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 11 ast, 1 blk, 5 stl)

Scouting Rocky Mountain College
Game Day: Saturday, December 8 – 7 p.m.
2018-19 Record: 7-2, 1-1 Frontier, 4-2 home, 3-0 away, 0-0 neutral
Head Coach: Bill Dreikosen (19th season)
2017-18 Record: 18-14, 8-10 Frontier, 8-5 home, 9-6 away, 1-3 neutral

Rocky Mountain College has had a good start to the season but lost a close game to Frontier Conference rival University of Providence Saturday night 93-89. Jared Samuelson scored 30 points for the Battlin’ Bears and picked up seven rebounds. The junior forward leads the Frontier Conference with 20.6 points per game and has 185 points through eight contests. Samuelson is also second best in rebounds per game at 7.6. The Yellowjackets allowed Samuelson to score 19 points and grab nine rebounds on November 19. A Billings native, Samuelson transferred to Rocky Mountain College last year after two seasons with the University of Montana Grizzlies.

Rocky Mountain College’s other offensive contributors include senior guard Satchel McDonald (12.5 ppg), and Danny Betcher (10.3 ppg).

As a team, the Battlin’ Bears average 91.4 points per game while holding opponents to 64.6. RMC has shot 49.0 percent from the floor and 32.2 percent from beyond the arc. The Battlin’ Bears are a good rebounding team, averaging 43.9 rebounds per game.

Last time out: Five Yellowjacket players reached double-figure point totals on November 19 and MSUB won the first game of the season against the Battlin’ Bears 79-73 at Fortin Center. The game was an exhibition contest for MSUB but counted for Rocky Mountain College. Newbern Jr. led the scoring with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Rollins was right behind with 17 points along with Zharon Richmond (13 pts), and Sven Jeuschede (11 pts). MSU Billing held a lead throughout the game but Rocky Mountain College closed the gap to one with 1:34 to go in the second half. A late offensive rebound by Howard and a three-point play by Newbern Jr. helped the ‘Jackets seal the win.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Yellowjackets conclude their home stand with a December 18 bout with non-conference opponent Dickinson State University at 7 p.m. After the holiday break, the team will resume GNAC competition on January 3 when they travel to play Northwest Nazarene University at 7 p.m.

AROUND THE CONFERENCE: Saint Martin’s (7-1, 2-0 GNAC), Western Oregon (5-1, 2-0 GNAC), and MSU Billings (5-3, 2-0 GNAC) currently share the top spot in the conference standings. Saint Martin’s was selected to finish in first place in the GNAC preseason coaches poll and the Saints have won five straight games and rank No. 24 nationally among Division II schools. Seven teams remain undefeated at home, though only Seattle Pacific has not lost a road game (0-0).

Last weekend, Saint Martin’s narrowly defeated Northwest Nazarene in Lacey, Washington 88-86 and Western Oregon got past Western Washington 96-88 in double overtime in Monmouth, Oregon.

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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