‘Jackets, Seawolves Clash for NCAA Regional Title - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

‘Jackets, Seawolves Clash for NCAA Regional Title

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COURTESY: MSUB Athletics

AZUSA, Calif. – Three Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball teams defeated Montana State University Billings twice during the 2017-18 regular season, but the Yellowjackets have already paid two of them back by bouncing them from the conference tournament last week.

Only No. 13 University of Alaska Anchorage remains among the conference opponents MSUB is yet to defeat this year, and the ‘Jackets will get their chance in the NCAA Division II west region title game on Monday night.

The Yellowjackets (24-11) are one win away from tying the school record for wins in a season, and look to win the second regional title in program history and the first since the 1998-99 Elite Eight squad. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific time on Monday at the Felix Event Center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University. Live video with play-by-play commentary and live statistics will be available online here.

Three of MSUB’s last four victories came against teams that it had gone a combined 0-5 against during the 2017-18 regular season. The ‘Jackets topped Northwest Nazarene University 76-69 in the GNAC tournament semifinals, before downing Seattle Pacific University 71-61 to win the GNAC Championships title.

In the opening round of the regional tournament, MSUB beat No. 19 Hawaii Pacific 76-65, avenging a 79-52 loss to the Sharks in Honolulu on Dec. 19. On Saturday night in the regional semifinals, the ‘Jackets held on for a 75-73 win over No. 23 UC San Diego, topping another team they lost to in the last meeting (88-60 on Nov. 11, 2016).

THE MATCHUP

UAA beat MSUB 81-60 in Billings, Mont., on Jan. 6, and completed the season sweep with a 73-63 win in Anchorage, Alaska on Feb. 1. UAA has won nine in-a-row in the series, with MSUB’s last victory coming on March 1, 2014 preceding its most recent run to the regional title game.

All-Time Series (61 meetings): UAA 35, MSUB 26

2017-18 Results: No. 6 UAA 81, MSUB 60 (1/6/17 at Billings, MT) | No. 8 UAA 73, MSUB 63 (2/1/18 at Anchorage, AK)

Neutral Site: UAA 1, MSUB 0

Last 10: UAA 9, MSUB 1

Postseason: MSUB 1, UAA 1

Monday will be the third-ever postseason matchup between the teams, with each team winning once before. UAA won 77-57 in the 2016 GNAC Championships title game, and MSUB won 76-59 in the 1994 Far West playoffs.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MSU Billings

G – Rylee Kane, SR, Red Lodge, MT

G – Lexi Prevost, SR, Sidney, MT

F – Alisha Breen, SR, Choteau, MT

F – Taylor Cunningham, SO, Spokane, WA

F – Vanessa Stavish, JR, Frenchtown, MT

This reliable five, laden with veteran experience, has been the starting lineup in 31 of 35 games this season for the ‘Jackets.

Alaska Anchorage

G – Yazmeen Goo, SO, Daly City, CA

G – Tara Thompson, JR, Anchorage, AK

G – Kian McNair, JR, Vallejo, CA

F – Shelby Cloninger, SR, Kamiah, ID

F – Hannah Wandersee, JR, Kodiak, AK

The Seawolves have started with four guards in each of their last three games, with Sala Langi taking the spot of Shelby Cloninger as of late. The senior Coninger has started 25 times this year however, including each of the previous games against MSUB, and could get the nod on Monday.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The winner of Monday’s Sweet 16 matchup will advance to the NCAA Division II finals, which run March 19-23 in Sioux Falls, S.D. For MSUB it would be the second regional crown in school history. For Anchorage it would be the second regional title in the last three years, as the Seawolves claimed the regional crown en route to their national runner-up finish in 2016.

A STORIED HISTORY

The 14th regional tournament run in school history has the potential to be the most memorable, as MSUB would tie the school record for wins and the deepest postseason venture with a win on Monday. The 1998-99 Yellowjackets went 25-6, winning the PacWest Conference championship and the NCAA D2 West Region Championship before falling to Arkansas Tech 68-56 in the Elite Eight. The ‘Jackets have reached 25 wins in a season on two other occasions, most recently in 2013-14 (25-8) and for the first time in 1990-91 (25-5).

WOODIN’S WINNING WAYS CONTINUE

In his 14th season in charge of MSUB’s women’s basketball program, MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin is the Yellowjackets’ all-time winningest coach as he enters Monday’s game at 242-167 (.592). Since taking over at the beginning of the 2004-05 season, Woodin’s teams have qualified for the NCAA regionals five times and have had five 20-win seasons. He is a four-time conference coach of the year, most recently being named GNAC Coach of the Year in 2015-16.

CAN’T STOP KANE

In the most important games of her career, senior Rylee Kane has been unstoppable on both ends of the court. In MSUB’s five playoff wins so far, she is averaging 21.4 points, 4.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks, and has an efficiency rating of 22.4 per game. In the semifinal win over UC San Diego, Kane was nearly perfect as she scored a career-high 31 points while dishing out seven assists, grabbing seven rebounds, and posting three steals against just one turnover in 38 minutes.

The Red Lodge, Mont., native has continued her incredible streak of longevity, as she has now started all 123 of MSUB’s games since she debuted as a freshman in 2014. Only Rebecca Kielpinski of Alaska Anchorage has a longer streak of consecutive starts (126), and she and Kane are the only two players in GNAC history to start 100 percent of their team’s games during a four-year career. Kane enters Monday’s championship game No. 4 in GNAC history with 554 assists, and her 170 assists this season are ninth-most in GNAC single-season history. Kane has had at least one assist in 101 consecutive games.

Kane now has 1,190 points in her career, and is on the verge of reaching 500 in her best season as a Yellowjacket. Entering Monday’s game, Kane is No. 2 in the GNAC with 493 points, trailing only teammate Alisha Breen. She is also tied for sixth in the league with a scoring average of 14.1 points per game.

GNAC Women’s Basketball All-Time Assists Leaders (as of March 11, 2018)

Rank

Name

School

Assists

Seasons

1

Kiki Robertson

Alaska Anchorage

700

2013-17

2

Ellen Kett

Simon Fraser

692

2013-17

3

Jasmin Edwards

Central Washington

568

2014-18

4

Rylee Kane

MSU Billings

554

2014-18

5

Bobbi Knudsen

MSU Billings

532

2010-14

BREEN THE TOP SCORER IN GNAC HISTORY

Senior Alisha Breen broke both the GNAC career and single-season scoring records in Saturday’s semifinal win, as she stands atop the conference’s all-time greats with 1,960 career points and 750 this season. With 27 points against UCSD, Breen extended her GNAC record streak of consecutive games of 20 or more points to 12, as she is averaging 24.8 points since Feb. 3.

GNAC Women’s Basketball Career Scoring Leaders (as of March 11, 2018)

Rank

Name

School

Points

Seasons

1

Alisha Breen

MSU Billings

1960

2013-15, 17-18

2

Erin Chambers

Simon Fraser

1946

2011-15

3

Taylor Peacocke

Western Washington

1940

2013-17

4

Bobbi Knudsen

MSU Billings

1831

2010-14

5

Jordan Wilson

Alaska

1783

2013-17

6

Rebecca Kielpinski

Alaska Anchorage

1752

2005-09

7

Rose Shaw

Central Washington

1696

1998-2002

8

Amanda Dunbar

Western Washington

1654

2007-11

9

Katie Benson

Seattle Pacific

1645

2010-14

10

Nicole Lynch

Humboldt State

1623

2001-05

Entering Monday’s game, Breen leads the NCAA Division II in minutes played (1,258) and free throws (213), and is No. 10 in scoring at 21.4 points per game.

PROTECT THE BALL

The Yellowjackets managed to beat UC San Diego despite being out-rebounded 48-31 including a margin of 15-0 on offensive boards. Though MSUB gave up 15 second-chance points, they scored 14 points off of turnovers as the defense came through by generating nine turnovers. By contrast, MSUB committed just six turnovers, which was its second-fewest giveaways of the season.

MSUB will have to be equally cautious with the ball on Monday, as UAA ranks No. 5 in the NCAA with 14.2 steals per game and is No. 11 in the nation with an average of 22.7 turnovers generated per game.

AGAINST THE RANKED OPPOSITION

Monday will be MSUB’s seventh game this year against a nationally-ranked opponent, and the team will look for its third consecutive win against a top-25 team after going 0-4 against ranked foes during the regular season.

Dec. 16 – No. 7 Drury University – L, 74-69 (at Honolulu, HI)

Dec. 28 – No. 25 Seattle Pacific University – L, 70-61 (at Seattle)

Jan. 6 – No. 6 University of Alaska Anchorage – L, 81-60 (at Billings, MT)

Feb. 1 – No. 8 University of Alaska Anchorage – L, 73-63 (at Anchorage, AK)

March 9 – No. 19 Hawaii Pacific University – W, 76-65 (at Azusa, CA)

March 10 – No. 23 UC San Diego – W, 75-73 (at Azusa, CA)

March 12 – No. 13 University of Alaska Anchorage – 7 PM

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