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Hall, Hodge help MSUB hold off Chadron, 76-69
Brad Hodge of MSU Billings lays up a shot during the second half of play Friday against Chadron State at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

Nobody had to tell Michael Hall that he was struggling.

The numbers did all the talking.

Entering Friday night, the Montana State Billings senior guard was shooting just 29 percent from the field in his previous five games. That included a difficult 2 of 13 outing in a loss to Montana Tech.

"You just have to go out and work harder … to figure out why your shots are off," Hall said. "You have to keep shooting. It's the only way you get out of it."

Hall's shooting stroke returned at the right time as he buried back-to-back 3-pointers late in the second half Friday to help the Yellowjackets hold off Chadron (Neb.) State, 76-69, at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

It was the final non-conference game of the season for MSUB. The Yellowjackets (5-6) begin Great Northwest Athletic Conference play Jan. 8 at Western Washington.

Along with Hall's team-high 23 points, the Yellowjackets showed some late-game grit and received major contributions from Tyler Hentzen and Brad Hodge. Hodge came off the bench and finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Hentzen came off the bench to add nine points and four rebounds.

Their played helped offset the absence of Derrick Wright, who spent much of the second half on the bench because of foul trouble. Wright finished with 13 points.

"I'm probably as hard on Brad as anyone in the program," MSUB coach George Pfeifer said of Hodge. "Then you pick up a stat sheet and he was one rebound from a double-double. Both had some big put-backs for us.

"Those guys combined for 19 points and 13 rebounds. We haven't had that before. Add in Derrick's 13 points and all of a sudden, we have a front line. And that's good."

"We wouldn't have gotten the W without them," Hall added.

MSUB led by as many as 11, 31-20, in the first half and 34-30 at halftime.

"We just all played well together," said Hall. "We were pushing the ball a little bit more up the court and got some good stops on defense. Everybody played well. We fed off each other."

Sparked by Tim McLaurin, the Eagles climbed back into contention and tied the game 57-57 on a put-back by Moala Tautuaa with 4:40 to play.

MSUB regained the lead on a basket by Wright and two Mario Burns free throws. Up 61-59, the Yellowjackets broke it open on consecutive 3-pointers by Hall with less than three minutes remaining. Hall finished 6 of 12 from the field, including 4 of 8 from the 3-point range. He was a good three feet behind the arc on his second 3-pointer of the second half. Hall had 14 points in the second half.

"My teammates set some great screens and I was able to come up with some clutch buckets," Hall said. "It feels good to get the win."

McLaurin finished with a game-high 25 points for the Eagles, while Kevin McClelland added 13 and Tautuaa 12.

Burns had 10 points for MSUB. Travis Bunker struggled through a 2-for-12 shooting night, but countered it with nine rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

"I thought we played harder for longer, both physically and mentally," Pfeifer said. "This was a big win for us."

NOTES: MSUB's next home game is Jan. 15 against Western Oregon. The Yellowjackets and Chadron State (5-6) split home games … Troy Ruff and Marty Birky have left the MSUB basketball program. Ruff, a junior forward from Custer, played in four games this season. He made one basket and was 4 of 4 from the free throw line. Birky, a walk-on sophomore forward from Chinook, appeared in just one game.

MSUB 76, Chadron State 69

Chadron State, Neb. (4-6) - Stacy McAlister 0-3 5-8 5, Tyler Coffman 1-1 0-0 2, Marco DeSouza 2-7 0-0 5, Kevin McClelland 3-5 5-6 13, Tim McLaurin 10-18 3-6 25, Moala Tautaa 5-8 2-2 12, Julian Pettway 2-2 0-0 4, Christian McGhee 0-0 0-0 0, Robert Martin IV 0-0 0-0 0, David Downey 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Lisco 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 24-47 15-22 69. 3-point goals: 6-20 (McClelland 2-4, McLaurin 2-8, Lisco 1-2, DeSouza 1-5, Downey 0-1). Fouls: 25. Fouled out: DeSouza. Technical foul: Brent Bargen, head coach. Rebounds: 31 (McLaurin 7). Assists: 12 (McLaurin 3, McAlister 3). Steals: 2 (McLaurin, Tautuaa). Blocked shots: 1 (Tautuaa). Turnovers: 21.

Montana State Billings (5-6) - Kirk Blaine 0-1 0-0 0, Travis Bunker 2-12 3-4 9, Derrick Wright 5-7 3-5 13, Mario Burns 1-8 8-13 10, Michael Hall 6-12 7-9 23, Brad Hodge 5-9 0-0 9, Brett Taylor 0-4 0-0 0, Tyler Hentzen 3-4 3-5 9, Kyle Palmer 1-1 0-0 2, Adam Weisz 0-0 0-0 0, Mike Barton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-58 24-36 76. 3-point goals: 6-19 (Hall 4-8, Bunker 2-6, Burns 0-1, Taylor 0-4). Fouls: 17. Rebounds: 36 (Bunker 9, Hodge 9). Assists: 14 (Bunker 7). Steals: 7 (Burns 3). Blocked shots: 3 (Wright 2). Turnovers: 12.

Halftime - MSUB 34, Chadron State 30.