(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Enduring its worst offensive performance of the season on Monday night at Alaska Airlines Court, the Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team fell 62-36 at the hands of Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent University of Alaska.
The Yellowjackets shot 21.6 percent in the game (11-for-51) and 10.3 percent from the arc (3-for-29) – both figures being season lows. MSUB went without a point in the paint in the opening half and never gained any traction on the offensive side of the ball.
Coleman Sparling had a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double, and made 4 of 6 threes to lead the hosts to victory. Abdullah Mohamed also finished in double figures with 14 points for the Nanooks, who improved to 7-10 overall and 4-7 in league play.
Carrington Wiggins led MSUB with six points, while Emmanuel Ajanaku, Anders Epperly, and Sam Elliott finished the game with five points apiece. Ajanaku led the team with nine rebounds, while Bilal Shabazz added seven boards to go along with four points and a pair of blocks. MSUB was out-rebounded 33-29, and slipped to 10-10 overall and 6-4 in conference play with the defeat.
The Yellowjackets started cold, missing their first six shots to go scoreless over the first 3:40 of the game. The Nanooks meanwhile used a pair of threes to get out to an early 8-0 lead. A Nicholas Sebastiao jumper broke the dry spell temporarily, but the ‘Jackets missed their next three shots and endured another drought that lasted nearly three minutes.
The hosts constructed a 15-3 advantage midway through the first, before Brent Finn sunk a trey immediately after checking into the game to give the ‘Jackets a much-needed boost. Elliott hit a three to make the score 26-9 at the 7-minute mark in the opening half, but Alaska continued to distance itself on the way to a 38-18 halftime advantage.
Sebastiao’s jumper and all three of the team’s made 3-pointers ended up being the only field goals of the first period. Alaska meanwhile shot a red-hot 53.3 percent overall (16-for-30) across the opening 20 minutes of play.
Yellowjacket leading scorers Wiggins and Damen Thacker, who entered the night combining for 32.4 points per game, were held to a single point in the first half on a free throw by Thacker at the 4:24 mark. The MSUB stars, who ranked fifth and 13th, respectively, in the GNAC in scoring, went a combined 0-for-6 in the half.
Finding energy immediately out of the locker room, MSUB started the second half with two steals and a 4-0 run in what had the looks of a hopeful start to an uphill battle. But Shadeed Shabazz and Quin Barnard nailed back-to-back threes to make the score 44-22 and Alaska never looked back after that.
The Nanooks finished the game shooting 48.1 percent (25-for-52) including a mark of 38.1 percent from downtown (8-for-21). Alaska made 4 of 5 free throws (80.0 percent), while MSUB went 11-for-18 from the line (61.1 percent).
The ‘Jackets continue their marathon road trip Tuesday night, with a 7 p.m. (Alaska) tipoff at University of Alaska Anchorage.