Aside from an early 8-0 run by Chaminade, this one was easy for the Montana State-Billings Yellowjackets, who pummeled the visiting Silverswords 108-79 in Pacific West basketball Monday night.
A sparse but loud crowd saw MSU-Billings dominate the final nine minutes of the first half, then cruise to its 31st straight home victory. The Jackets, now 9-2 in Pac West play and 19-3 overall, led just 21-20 after Jaborri Thomas drained a three for the Silverswords (5-5, 12-9) at the 9:45 mark.
From that point until halftime, the Yellowjackets outscored the visitors 37-11.
Kyle Stirmlinger, the Jackets’ 6-foot-11 junior center, came off two sub-par games to total 21 points and nine rebounds. He also maintained a physical presence inside, blocking three shots in 18 productive minutes.
None of the Jackets were shy about contact Monday: Six minutes into the game Silversword forward Mike Donegan ran into a forearm from MSU-Billings’ Jethro Wilson, and had to be helped off the court.
“They were physical when we played them out there,” said back-up point guard Willy Davison, who had six assists to go with a 3-pointer against the Silverswords. “And we all prepared mentally for it. We knew there were going to be plenty of fouls, and we knew people would probably get away with some stuff.”
Well, Wilson got away with his. And the Jackets, who needed a last-second banked three from Danny Phillips to beat Chaminade in Hawaii on Jan. 5, were never threatened.
Jerett Skrifvars’ three-point play off an offensive rebound gave MSU-B the lead for good, at 13-10 five minutes into the game. Six minutes later, his brother Jason Skrifvars got MSU-Billings’ pivotal run going with two free throws.
Dan Phillips, one of five Yellowjackets in double figures with 18 points, hit a three to move the lead to 26-20. Then Stirmlinger hit a 12-footer – the first two of 10 points he scored over the final eight minutes of the half.
“He just keeps in there and keeps battling,” Davison said of the center. “And we’ll keeping giving him the ball as much as we can, because we know what an inside presence he is.
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“It’s not very often that you come by a guy who’s seven feet tall and can do the things he can do.”
Stirmlinger scored again off a Davison dish to make it 38-22 at the 5:20 mark, bowling over massive Chaminade center Willie Davis in the process. Then, at the 2:00 mark, Stirmlinger drilled a 3-pointer – his first in six tries this season. That made it 51-29, and his up-and-under move on MSU-Billings’ next possession made it 53-31. His free throw with six seconds left gave the Jackets a 58-31 halftime lead.
After contributing six and eight points in the weekend sweep of Hilo – while teammate Brian Cook had 20 and 30 in the two games – Stirmlinger was feeling good about his performance.
“Very nice,” he said. “A little two-game slump for me, but Brian had two huge games against Hilo. So I figured I’d give him a rest tonight.”
Cook ended up missing all eight of his field goal attempts Monday, but hit his free throws and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. And Stirmlinger picked up the slack, as well as four fouls – a couple of them while giving a little extra.
“Coach (Craig Carse) wanted us to be more physical,” said Stirmlinger. “We took a lot of their players out of the game mentally just by being more physical with them.”
Jerett Skrifvars added 16 points, Dan Thompson had 14 and David Carse chipped in with 12 for MSU-Billings, which won’t play again Feb. 15, at Hawaii Pacific. That’s the first of three crucial games in Hawaii for the Yellowjackets, but for now, they’ll rest. Coach Carse is foregoing practice for the next three days, after his league-leading team’s eighth straight win in 18 days.
“We’re going to take a couple days off,” Davison said. “After that, we’re getting right back in it, have some good practices, then head for Hawaii. We know what we have going.”MSU-Billings 108, Chaminade 79Chaminade (5-5, 12-9) – Mike Donegan 1-5 3-4 5, Albert Powell 4-12 0-0 9, Igor Beljanski 9-9 5-6 21, John Kirk 1-2 0-0 2, Rahshaw McAfee 2-10 2-2 7, Jaborri Thomas 4-14 1-2 11, Kashif Reyes 6-14 4-4 19, Donald Rogers 1-4 2-2 4, Willie Davis 0-5 1-2 1. Totals 27-75 18-22 79. Three-point goals 7-23 (Reyes 3-7, Thomas 2-3, McAfee 1-6, Powell 1-7). Rebounds 43 (Beljanski 7). Fouls 26. Fouled out – Davis. Assists 11 (Reyes 3). Blocks 1 (Powell). Steals 2. Turnovers 15.
MSU-Billings (9-2, 19-3) – Jerett Skrifvars 6-7 4-4 16, Jason Skrifvars 1-5 4-4 6, Brian Cook 0-8 6-6 6, Dan Thompson 5-10 1-2 14, David Carse 4-10 2-2 12, Keith Krause 1-3 4-4 6 Danny Phillips 6-15 1-2 18, Willy Davison 1-3 1-2 4, Jethro Wilson 2-2 0-0 5, Kyle Stirmlinger 6-8 8-10 21, Joe Cook 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-71 31-36 108. Three-point goals 13-31 (Phillips 5-13, Thompson 3-6, Carse 2-3, Wilson 1-1, Stirmlinger 1-2, Davison 1-3, Karuse 0-1, Br.Cook 0-1, Ja.Skrifvars 0-1). Rebounds 51 (Br.Cook 13). Fouls 2. Assists 24 (Davison 6). Blocks 5 (Stirmlinger 3, Br.Cook, Ja.Skrifvars). Steals 5 (5 with 1). Turnovers 8.
Halftime score – MSU-Billings 58, Chaminade 31. A–n/a.