Yellowjackets Get Back to Winning Ways at Home - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Yellowjackets Get Back to Winning Ways at Home

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Preston Beverly posted an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double and Marc Matthews added 22 points as the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team outlasted Northwest Nazarene University 77-72 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action Saturday night at Alterowitz Gym.

Beverly had 11 of his 18 points over the final 3:15, including a pair of big three pointers that kept MSUB’s lead steady at six points as time wound down. Matthews also drained a clutch trey in between Beverly’s hits, which helped the ‘Jackets counter a three by NNU’s Jayden Bezzant that cut the visitors’ deficit to 66-63 with 2:08 to go.

Pol Olivier nailed a corner three with nine seconds remaining that cut the score to 74-72. After MSUB coughed up the ball on the ensuing inbounds pass, Olivier had a chance to win the game with another corner three but it glanced off the side of the backboard with three seconds left.

“I was proud of the way the guys fought, and this is a game we can build from,” said MSUB head coach Jamie Stevens. “We played well overall, but we just didn’t shoot it very well. The guys responded well over the last six minutes of the game, but a lot of credit goes to NNU for the way that they guard.”

Maurice Jones had a big game for the Crusaders with 16 points and a dozen boards, but he and Kaileb Rodriguez, who scored 13 points, had fouled out with 3:30 to play as the ‘Jackets capitalized down the stretch.

With the win MSUB improved to 9-4 overall and is now 4-2 in conference play. The Crusaders dropped to 5-6 overall and 2-3 in the GNAC with their second straight loss and fourth in their last five games.

MSUB rallied after shooting just 35.5 percent from the floor in the first half, to shoot 48.2 percent in the second half. The big difference was the Yellowjackets’ accuracy from the perimeter as the team went just 2-for-10 (20 percent) in the opening 20 minutes, before making 7 of 13 threes (53.9 percent) in the second stanza.

Matthews and Beverly combined to hit seven of the team’s nine three pointers, the former shooting 5-for-10 from beyond the arc and 7-for-13 overall from the floor. “We were playing good defense throughout the game, but we were missing too many open shots in the first half,” said Matthews. “They were hitting shots in the second half to start it off, but the last 10 minutes of the game we started clicking.”

NNU, which entered the game last in the GNAC in free-throw shooting at just 58.8 percent, took advantage of its trips to the line by making 16 of 18 foul shots in the game. Jones and Bouna N’Diaye, who also had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, were each 6-for-6 from the line in the game. N’Diaye led the ‘Saders with four assists and played all 40 minutes.

MSUB jumped out to a 16-6 lead at the 11:01 mark in the first half, but it was the largest advantage of the night for either team in a wild, back-and-forth game that featured 49 total fouls between the teams.

The Yellowjackets led from wire-to-wire in the first half and took a 29-26 edge into the locker room, but the Crusaders didn’t waste much time in finding their first lead of the night. Coming out of the break on a 7-0 run, NNU worked the game to a 43-43 tie on a three by Olivier midway through the period.

The big shot by the senior kicked off a 12-3 run that gave NNU its largest lead of the night at 52-46 with 7:11 to go. Beverly, who had been subbed out due to having four fouls and was yet to score in the second half, carried the team the rest of the way and forced his way to his third double-double of the season.

Kendall Denham had 10 points and tied for the team high with three assists, and Cinco Durr added nine points, four rebounds, and a pair of assists against just one turnover in 19 strong minutes off of the bench. “Kendall was awesome for us and was really flying around tonight,” Stevens said.

MSUB held a narrow 40-38 edge in rebounding, but the Crusaders vastly outscored the ‘Jackets 34-22 underneath the basket in the paint. Not only did Rodriguez command the game inside offensively, but the senior led all players with four blocks in 25 minutes.

The Yellowjackets shot 41.4 percent from the field overall (24-for-58), 39.1 percent from 3-point range (9-for-23), and 71.4 percent from the foul line (20-for-28). Conversely, NNU shot 39.7 percent from the field (25-for-63), and 28.6 percent from long range (6-for-21) to go along with its stellar mark from the foul line.

“We are now at the midway point in our season, and we are excited about the next 14 games,” Stevens commented. “I feel like we can compete with anybody, but this is a league where you have to show up every night.”