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January 20, 2009

Yellowjackets Look to Continue Winning Ways at Home Wednesday

BILLINGS, Mont. -   Fresh off two thrilling home victories, the Montana State Billings men's basketball team continues its five-game home stand Wednesday Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason favorite Central Washington at 7 p.m. at Alterowitz Gymnasium.  The Yellowjackets then conclude the week Saturday at 7 p.m. versus Northwest Nazarene. 

MSUB enters the week with a 7-8 record and a 2-2 record in the GNAC.  The Yellowjackets are coming off of two GNAC victories and are playing some of their best basketball this season.  The 'Jackets built a 19-point halftime lead on Western Oregon last Thursday and withstood a furious WOU rally in the second half for a 91-83 victory, snapping a string of 14 consecutive conference losses dating back to Jan. 24, 2008, in a 65-55 home victory over Alaska Fairbanks.

Against WOU, senior guard Michael Hall led the team with 27 points on 9 of 19 from the floor, 3 of 10 from beyond the arc and 6 of 8 from the line.  Travis Bunker added 15 points and Derrick Wright chipped in 13 for the Yellowjackets who shot 55.9 percent from the field for the game.

MSUB followed that performance with a thrilling 118-112 double-overtime victory over Alaska Fairbanks last Saturday.  The Yellowjackets and Nanooks battled back-and-forth for 50 minutes while three players scored over 30 points.  Hall led the Yellowjackets with 36 points on 11 of 23 from the field, including 7 of 15 from deep and 7 of 9 from the line.  His 63 points during the week earned him Great Northwest Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Week honors with Matt Penoncello of Central Washington.  Bunker had 27 points and nine rebounds, while Derrick Wright had another impressive game with 21 points and eight rebounds.  Mario Burns just missed a double-double with nine points and a career-high 13 assists.

Leading the way for the Yellowjackets this season is Hall who is averaging 18.4 points per game.  He has a team-high 49 3-pointers, including 10 last week.  He is second on the squad with 85 made field goals as well.  Wright is second on the team in scoring at 15.9 points.  He leads the team with 88 made field goals and a .547 field goal percentage.  He also leads the team with 63 made free throws. 

In addition, Bunker is third on the team in scoring at 14.7 points and leads the team in rebounding at an 8.9 clip.  Bunker is third in field goals (75) and second in 3-pointers with 45.  He played all 50 minutes against Alaska Fairbanks Saturday and has played every minute in 10 of the Jackets' 15 games this season.  Burns (10.5 ppg.) leads the team with 102 assists to just 46 turnovers.  He is averaging 6.8 assists per game and had a career-high 13 last Saturday versus Alaska Fairbanks.

As a team, the Yellowjackets have begun to shoot the ball better since conference play began.  The team is shooting .459 for the season on 395 of 861, but is shooting just south of .500 in conference play on 121 of 244 for a .496 clip.  From downtown, the Jackets are shooting .386 on 112 of 290 and are 225 of 332 from the line (.678).  Another area in which the Yellowjackets have improved drastically is rebounding as they are pulling down 33.5 rebounds per game, compared to 33.7 by their opponents for the season.  In conference play, MSUB is out-rebounding its opponents 35.2, to 34.2 and outscoring its opponents as well, 88.8 to 87.2.

Central Washington enters the week with a 9-3 record and a 3-1 mark in conference play.  The Wildcats posted two wins this past week over Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin's last week.  The Wildcats enter winners of two-straight and four of five. 

Leading the way for CWU is Penoncello who is averaging 19.4 points per game.  He leads the team in field goals made (83), field goal percentage (.512), 3-pointers (25) and free throws with 42.  He also is averaging a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game and is second on the team in assists with 26.

Second on the team in scoring is Jake Beitinger who is averaging 16.5 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per contest.  He has 61 made field goals and is third in free throws with 30.  Third on the team is Brandon Foote averaging 11.4 points per game.  Colton Monti leads the team with 27 assists.

As a team, the Wildcats are shooting a blazing 49 percent for the season and 40 percent from beyond the arc.  The team is just as good from the line at a 75 percent clip.  CWU is pulling down 38.8 rebounds and holding its opponents to just 30 rebounds per game.  In addition, the Wildcats are scoring 88.3 points per game and allowing 70.1 points.

Northwest Nazarene enters the week with a 10-4 record and a 2-2 mark in the conference.  The Crusaders split two games last week, losing at home to Western Washington and beating Western Oregon.

The Crusaders are led by Kendall Gielow who is averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game.  He is one of three NNU players shooting over 50 percent for the season and all three have more than 60 made field goals each.  Gielow is second behind Brian Barkdoll (13.1 ppg., 79 FGM) with 78 made field goals.  Gielow leads the team in rebounding at a 5.6 clip.  Louie Beech is third in scoring at 12.9 points, while Joel Ryman (10.6 points) leads the team with 40 made 3-pointers.

As a team, the Crusaders are shooting over 50 percent for the year on 423 of 837.  They have 114 made 3-points for a .393 average and are shooting 78 percent from the line.  NNU is averaging 35 rebounds per game and holding its opponents to 29.  The team is scoring 82.5 points per contest and allowing 76.7.

MSUB then will conclude the five-game home stand Wed., Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. versus Alaska Anchorage. 

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