MSU Billings men prep for No. 23 Saint Martin’s Thursday

(MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS – After running into triple overtime trouble on Saturday, The Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team returns home to take on No. 23 Saint Martin’s University Thursday at 7:30 p.m., then Seattle Pacific University Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Both opponents will pose a formidable challenge as two of the top contenders in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

“We’re excited to be back home and playing two very good teams that have separated themselves at the top of the league,” said head coach Mick Durham. “These two teams have a lot of experience and it’s paying off very well for them. Our main goal has been to keep improving all season long and it’s critical we learn from each week of games and get better. We’re still a new team and new program but this weekend’s games will be a good measuring stick for us.”

The Yellowjackets (9-7, 4-4 GNAC) are coming off back-to-back overtime games and a win on the road Thursday night against Western Washington means MSUB is still squarely in the conversation for a postseason position. The ‘Jackets are currently locked in a three-way tie for fourth place with Alaska Anchorage and Western Washington. MSUB has 12 conference games still on the schedule and must make the top six to earn a berth to the GNAC Championships.

LAST TIME OUT: The Yellowjackets battled back from a 16 point deficit to send Saturday night’s road game against Simon Fraser University into overtime. Tyler Green hit a shot at the overtime buzzer to tie the game again and send it to a second extra session. Rollins nearly won it for the ‘Jackets in double overtime, but instead it was Simon Fraser who took the game in triple overtime 112-107.

BEYOND THE ARC: Tyler Green continues to take and make three pointers for MSUB, even drawing double coverage at times from GNAC counterparts. Green ranks No. 1 in the conference for three pointers made with 60 (3.9 per game) in 16 games started this season. He also ranks ninth in NCAA Division II with a 48.2 three point percentage and sixth in Division II for three point field goals per game with 3.75.

TOP SCORERS: Green leads the Yellowjackets with 16.9 points per game (4th GNAC) and is shooting .470 from the floor. Rollins ranks sixth in the conference with 15.8 points per game and Brendan Howard ranks 11th with 13.8 points per game for MSUB. Both Green and Rollins have multiple 30-point games this season. The pair are joined only by Adonis Arms of Northwest Nazarene to score 30 more than once. Arms is also the No. 1 scorer in the GNAC.

VERSUS THE REST: MSU Billings is averaging 80.9 points per game (seventh) while allowing 79.4 points per game to opponents. The ‘Jackets are ninth in free throw percentage (.720), sixth in field goal percentage (.462), and fifth in 3-point percentage (.375). Green accounts for 40.2 percent of the team’s total three point tries. Defensively, MSUB is sixth in blocked shots (3.3 bpg) and eighth in steals (6.6 spg). MSUB enters the week averaging 36.2 rebounds per game. The Yellowjackets are third in the GNAC with 25.94 defensive rebounds per game.

REST OF THE WAY: The Yellowjackets begin their second longest homestand this week with the first of four games at Alterowitz Gymnasium. Next weekend, MSUB hosts Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene. They will be on the road for six of the final eight contests, ending with a four game road swing through Washington and Alaska. The Yellowjackets are 8-2 at home this season. Their first home loss came on November 23, when a three-pointer at the final buzzer lifted California State Dominguez Hills over the ‘Jackets 75-73. Western Oregon proved a formidable foe in Billings and dispatched MSUB 81-65 with a 53 point second half of January 10. On the road MSUB is 1-4 after an 81-72 overtime win Thursday at Western Washington.

Scouting #23 Saint Martin’s University
Game Day: Thursday, January 24 – 7:30 p.m.
2018-19 Record: 15-2 (8-1 GNAC), 8-0 home, 5-2 away, 2-0 neutral
Head Coach: Alex Pribble (4th season)
2017-18 Record: 25-8, (15-5 GNAC), 11-2 home, 9-3 away, 5-3 neutral

The Saints are ranked No. 2 in the region and No. 23 in Division II. SMU defeated Seattle Pacific University 80-63 Tuesday in Lacey, Washington. Chandler Redix led the charge with 24 points and six rebounds and SMU’s five starters combined for 65 points and made 12 three pointers. After a slow start, the Saints went on a 17-2 run to take a 19-9 lead and never looked back.

Saint Martin’s gives up 70.2 points per game (second) and scores 81.0 (fifth). SMU takes more three point shots than any team in the GNAC and is shooting .387 from long range (third).

The Saints score by committee. Only three players average more than 10 points per game but eight are above five points per game. Redix leads the Saints with 13.0 points per game along with 3.7 rebounds. The senior also has a team leading 47 assists, 18 steals, and seven blocks.

Senior guard Luke Chavez scores 12.2 points per game and 2.5 rebounds. Chavez had a 25 point game against Alaska on January 12.

Saint Martin’s is riding a five game win streak which began on January 10 against Alaska Anchorage. The Saints were tabbed preseason favorites to win the conference and have sole possession of first place over Northwest Nazarene (6-2), and Western Oregon (6-2) with one more game played. Last season, SMU fell in the second game of the NCAA West Region Tournament to Western Oregon 77-55. All except one player on SMU’s 15 man roster has at least one year of varsity college experience.

The ‘Jackets are 14-17 all-time against Saint Martin’s in games dating back to 1983. MSUB has won seven of the last ten matchups.

Scouting Seattle Pacific University
Game Day: Saturday, January 26 – 5:15 p.m.
2018-19 Record: 9-5 (6-3 GNAC), 5-1 home, 4-2, away, 0-2 neutral
Head Coach: Grant Leep (3rd season)
2017-18 Record: 17-12 (11-9 GNAC), 7-5 home, 9-5 away, 1-2 neutral

The Yellowjackets can make up ground on fourth place Seattle Pacific with a win Saturday. The Falcons average 80.3 points per game (seventh) and give up 73.3 (third). They have a high efficiency offense and shoot .496 from the field (second) and .359 from three point range (seventh). SPU leads the league in defensive rebounds per game (31.1) and rebounding margin. They also rank second in offensive rebounding.

Five players average more than 10 points per game including junior guard Gavin Long who leads the team with 14.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest. Other starters include senior guard Nikhil Lizotte (11.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg), sophomore guard Harry Cavell (11.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg), senior forward Coleman Wooten (10.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg), and senior forward Nathan Streufart (9.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg). Senior forward Sam Simpson has come off the bench in every game except one and scores 9.2 points per game for the Falcons.

Before falling to Saint Martin’s on Tuesday, the Falcons split on their trip to Oregon last week, beating Concordia 80-78 on Thursday before falling at Western Oregon on Saturday 73-71. SPU enjoyed an eight game winning streak from December 1 to January 19.

The Yellowjackets are 30-43 all-time against the Falcons including 21-12 at home and 8-30 in Seattle. MSUB has lost each of the last eight matchups dating back to 2014.

AROUND THE GNAC: In a four team log jam at the top of the GNAC standings, Saint Martin’s was the only team to win both games last week, running their winning streak to five games. Tyler Brimhall of Alaska Anchorage was named GNAC player of the week after putting up 43 points and 14 rebounds in two games while shooting 57 percent from the field and 78 percent from three-point range. Saint Martins (8-1) ranks 23rd in NCAA Division II in the latest national coaches poll. Just behind in the conference standings are Northwest Nazarene (6-2), Western Oregon (6-2), and Seattle Pacific (6-3).

HOW TO WATCH: Live video and statistics will be available via MSUB’s stretch internet portal for both home games this week.

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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