BILLINGS — The second installment of this season’s “Rimrock Rivalry” couldn’t come at a better time for the Montana State Billings or Rocky Mountain College men’s basketball teams.
It’s finals week at both schools, so the players will be more than ready to be tested on the hardwood instead of the classroom. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday at Alterowitz Gymnasium.
“It’s an opportunity for both us of to get out there and compete again,” said Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen.
“It’s tough to play at the end of finals week,” offered MSUB coach Mick Durham. “Mentally they are a little tired from all the finals, but both programs are in the same boat and that balances things out.”
That being said, Durham said, “It won’t be hard to get ready for game night.”
With most crosstown games across sports there is a certain buzz. Adding to the surroundings this time around, it is “Eastern Montana College Throwback Night” — a nod to the past at MSU Billings — at Alterowitz. Yellowjackets players will don black and gold uniforms. When the school was known as EMC, those were the team colors.
Durham, in his second year guiding the Jackets, said the team wore the EMC uniforms last year and the coaching staff will visit with this year’s MSUB team about the Jackets’ history.
While the jerseys will “add to the excitement of the game,” Dreikosen said his team will not be impacted as it’s a Yellowjacket tradition — not a tribute to the Battlin’ Bears.
The last time the two teams met, Rocky scored a 79-70 victory as Sam Vining scored 16 points at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark on Nov. 23. That game, like the one on Friday will be, was an exhibition for both schools. Brandon The Boy had 15 points for Rocky, Grant Wallace added 14 and Clayton Ladine had 10. Wallace also had nine rebounds.
The Jackets were led by Brendan Howard, who scored a game-high 24 points, along with seven boards. Tyler Green added 12 points for MSUB. Chrishon Dixon led the Jackets with four assists, and Sam Elliott contributed eight boards.
Rocky is 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the NAIA’s Frontier Conference. In their last competition, the Bears opened league play on the road last week, losing to Providence 83-71 and edging MSU-Northern 90-86.
“This is a game you throw out all your records,” Dreikosen said. “You are not focused on conference play. It’s a highly competitive game with a lot of tradition. The more kids play in it, they understand what a rivalry game is about.”
The Jackets are 4-4 and 0-2 in the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference. MSUB lost the first two games of its conference schedule, falling 88-76 at Simon Fraser on Dec. 5 and 86-62 at Western Washington two days later. MSUB had previously swept Adams State University Nov. 29-30 at Alterowitz.
“We are hanging. We won two games at Thanksgiving and the road was tough,” Durham said. “With Western Washington and Simon Fraser, we saw the two best teams in the GNAC right off the bat. We are learning about ourselves and getting better.
“This game is great. It’s another chance and with a rival game everyone is intense.”
NOTES: According to an MSUB press release, the Yellowjackets lead the all-time series with Rocky, 91-82. … Howard leads the GNAC in scoring per game with an average of 23 ppg. The sophomore from Great Falls has recorded four double-doubles in a row and leads the GNAC with 9.5 rebounds per game. … Green averages 16.6 points, which is seventh-best in the GNAC. … Ladine averages 17.17 ppg for the Battlin’ Bears, good for sixth in the Frontier. Ladine also averages 6 rebounds per contest, which is tied for 10th best in the league. … Vining averages 12 ppg and 5.3 rpg. … Santa Claus will be at the game beginning at 6:30 p.m. through halftime and will be handing out candy canes and posing for pictures.