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MSU Billings breaks WWU's two game winning streak

Vikings men’s basketball fall short of a second half comeback

Scenes from Western Washington University's men's basketball team playing against MSU Billings on Feb. 10, 2024. // Photos courtesy of WWU Athletics

Coming off a two game winning streak, Western Washington University’s men's basketball faced off in a close game against Montana State University Billings at home in Sam Carver Gymnasium on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Following a 13-point defeat from MSU Billings early into the season, the Vikings were hoping to come out on top at home this time around.

The Vikings put up a dominant first half performance but fell short in the second half, with a final score of 83-88.

Western’s Will Wilson was all over the court, leading the Vikings in scoring with 22 points, four assists and two steals while shooting 58% from the field. In Western’s last game against Seattle Pacific University, Wilson had 16 points shooting 60% from the court.

In the first half of Feb. 10’s game alone, Wilson scored 13 points, shooting 2-3 from the three-point range and 5-7 overall. 

“I was aggressive out the gate,'' Wilson said. “Just trying to get in a rhythm in the game, trying to take the easy shots.”

Western controlled the majority of the tempo in the first half, leading with key contributions from the bench courtesy of Darius Gary, a senior forward. 

Coming off the bench, Gary scored 10 points in the first half, extending the lead over MSU Billings while fellow teammate Nic Welp was subbed off due to personal fouls. 

“Just affect the game in any way possible,” Gary said. “I saw some gaps in the defense where I could score.”

The Vikings went into the second half leading with a score of 45-43. The game was neck and neck leading into the half, but MSU Billings came in firing on all cylinders after the break. 

12 minutes into the second half, MSU Billings led 62-73. MSU Billings’ Zharon Richmond was a huge factor in the Vikings' defeat. Scoring a total of 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. The Vikings had little to no answer for Richmond. 

“We were gonna guard his shot because he shot 10 threes last game, but he got a lot of free throws,” red-shirt freshman Tijan Saine said. “But we fought hard in the paint. We can't hang our heads.” 

The Vikings did not fall without a fight. Down by 11 points with 7:00 still on the clock, the Vikings started their crawl back. MSU Billings’ aggressive tendencies on defense allowed Western to enter the bonus early, allowing for free throws on any foul committed by MSU Billings.

With 3:44 left remaining on the clock, the Vikings trailed by eight points with a score of 82-74. Saine turned on the intensity by dishing out an assist to teammate Wilson and then immediately scoring off a steal to bring the score to 79-82. 

Saine then scored again in clutch time while drawing a foul to secure three points, bringing the total score to 83-86 with 44 seconds remaining. 

A foul by Western’s Kai Johnson, the top scorer in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, allowed MSU Billings to wrap up the game, ahead by four points with nine seconds left. 

The Vikings look to bounce back as they travel to Alaska for their next two games to face the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Thursday, Feb. 15 and the University of Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 17.

Diego Corona

Diego Corona is a sports reporter for The Front this quarter. This is his first quarter at Western and he’s excited to get know the campus. He is a PR major. In Diego’s free time, he likes to watch soccer, play video games, and cook. You can reach him at

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