Jackets hold off Battin' Bears for men's basketball victory

2013-11-20T22:32:00Z 2013-11-20T23:54:05Z Jackets hold off Battin' Bears for men's basketball victoryBy JOE KUSEK jkusek@Billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Jonathan Mesghan already had his Thursday planned.

“I missed two free throws,’’ said the senior forward for Montana State Billings. “You know were to find me tomorrow.’’

More importantly on Wednesday night, Mesghan made four free throws in the closing minutes to help the Yellowjackets hold off Rocky Mountain College, 81-72, at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

MSUB improves to 2-3. It was an exhibition game for the Battlin’ Bears.

Mesghan was part of a Yellowjacket front line that produced 43 points and 18 rebounds. He and teammate Connor Donaldson scored 15 points apiece — each with three 3-pointers in the second half — while Austin Hudson worked his way around the basket for 13 points and eight rebounds.

MSUB senior point guard Kalob Hatcher finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Danny Desin came off the bench to toss in 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.

Rocky was led by Malachi Roberts’ 19 points, while Joel Barndt posted a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Yellowjackets outrebounded the Battlin’ Bears 37 to 30.

“Our preparation for this week’s game was to be more physical,’’ said Mesghan, a native of Germany and transfer from the University of Maine. “We needed to become more physical and rebound better.”

Tied 30-30 in the closing minutes of the first half, the Yellowjackets scored the final six points, including two free throws and a basket by Tyler Nelson.

“I didn’t like how we ended the first half,’’ said Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen. “I felt we should have been up by four instead of them being up four. They made some plays late in the first half and we didn’t. They got the ball inside on us and were able to do what they wanted down low.

“We had some momentum and let them take it back.”

Mesghan scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, while Donaldson scored all of his 15 in the final 20 minutes.

The Yellowjackets took their first 10-point lead, 50-40, on two Hatcher free throws. MSUB led by as many as 15, 71-56, on a scoop drive by their court leader.

Stevens credited the play of Hudson for opening up his team’s perimeter game. The Yellowjackets finished 11 of 28 from 3-point range. Rocky was just 4 of 25.

“We have to be more physical,’’ Stevens said. “We need to have a presence in the paint. Austin gave us that presence tonight. When we have that, it opens up our ability to shoot the 3. We’ve got to first look inside instead of coming down the court and launching a shot.”

Rocky pulled within 76-70 with 1:31 to play before Mesghan made his four free throws. Devon Wallace also added a late free throw for MSUB.

“Free throws are like riding a bike, you never forget how to ride a bike,’’ said Mesghan. “The difference was we made our shots … we finally made our shots.

“We needed this one.”

NOTES: Dreikosen didn’t play senior forward Jeremy Nicolas, who has been slowed by an ankle injury. Nicolas had a game-high 30 points in Rocky’s 104-101 win over MSUB when the teams met Oct. 30 at the Fortin Center. … The Yellowjackets host Montana State Northern on Friday, part of a doubleheader with the women. The MSUB women are playing the University of Great Falls. Both Yellowjackets teams will be wearing Eastern Montana College throwback jerseys. … Rocky men and women also have a doubleheader on Friday against Oglala Lakota College of South Dakota.

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