T-Bird Men Travel To TCU, Host San Diego Christian

November 27, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Chris Nsenki
Chris Nsenki
Courtesy: SUU Strategic Communications

Southern Utah's men's basketball team plays a pair of games this week, traveling to Ft. Worth, Texas, for a Thursday night game at TCU, then returning home to host San Diego Christian on Saturday night.

SUU (1-4/0-0 Big Sky) will be looking to build on its first win of the season after knocking off Carroll College last Wednesday night. The Thunderbirds got at least three minutes of court time for everyone on the roster in the 68-58 win over the Fighting Saints. It was the first career win for SUU's first-year head coach Nick Robinson. It was also SUU's home-opener after road games at Gonzaga and Nevada and neutral site match-ups with Wisconsin-Green Bay and Cal State Fullerton.

TCU (5-2/0-0 Big 12) played at the South Padre Invitational last weekend, where it lost a 55-31 decision to Northwestern before bouncing back with a 76-73 win over UAB. Prior to the tournament the Horned Frogs had played all five of their games at home, with the only blemish on the home slate a 64-61 loss to SMU. SMU and UAB are the only teams to score over 60 points against TCU, and four opponents have scored fewer than 50.

San Diego Christian (2-7/0-0 Golden State) plays at Point Loma Nazarene on Wednesday night prior to facing the Thunderbirds. The Hawks snapped a three-game skid their last time out with an 80-60 home win over West Coast Baptist. SDCC also has a win over Claremont-Mudd (89-81), with setbacks at the hands of Simpson College (95-89), Redlands (85-84) and Cal State San Marcos. The NAIA Hawks have also lost games against Division I schools UC Riverside (83-72), San Diego (91-58), San Diego State (91-57) and Cal State Fullerton (106-60).

The Games:

Thursday - Southern Utah (1-4/0-0) at TCU (5-2/0-0), 7:00 p.m. (Central) at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum (7,201), Ft. Worth, Texas.

Saturday - San Diego Christian (2-7/0-0, pending the outcome of Wednesday's game at Point Loma), at SUU, 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) in the Centrum Arena (5,300). Saturday's game is the second in a double-header, following the SUU vs. New Mexico State women's game, which tips off at 5:00 p.m.

The Series: This will be the first meeting between Southern Utah and both of this week's opponents.

TV: Thursday's game will be televised live on Fox Sports Southwest. There will be no television coverage of Saturday's game.

Radio: All of Southern Utah men's basketball games will be broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM) as well as on the internet at www.suu.edu/ksuu. Art Challis is in his 40th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis is joined on home and selected road broadcasts by former SUU standout Dean O'Driscoll.

On The Internet: Video web-streaming of Thursday's game will be available on TCU's website at http://gofrogs.cstv.com/multimedia/listenlive.html. Video web-streaming coverage of all of Southern Utah's home games and Big Sky road games will be available on Big Sky TV, at www.bigskytv.org. Audio of all SUU games is available by logging on to the Thunderbird website at www.suutbirds.com or at www.suu.edu/ksuu.

Live Stats: Live stats of Thursday's game will be available on TCU's website at http://gofrogs.cstv.com/multimedia/listenlive.html. Live stats of Southern Utah's home games are available on the SUU website at www.suu.edu. Real-time live stats of SUU's home games are available to working media, contact the athletic media relations office for access information.

Video Highlights: Video highlights of the Thunderbirds' home games will be available to accredited media outlets via SUU's FTP site. For information on obtaining those highlights contact SUU Director of Athletic Media Relations Neil Gardner.

Practice Schedule: The practice schedule calls for the Thunderbirds to work out daily at 3:15 p.m. in the Centrum Arena.

Media Availability: The schedule will be TBA until conference play begins in earnest, at which time players and coaches will be available on Tuesdays prior to practice at 2:45 p.m.

Next Up: SUU has just one game next week. The T-Birds host University of San Diego in the Centrum at 7:05 on Dec. 4. Following that game the Thunderbirds will take a break for final exams before returning to the court Dec. 17 for the Big Sky opener, against North Dakota in the Centrum.

Thunderbird Club Luncheons: The Thunderbird Club's weekly no-host luncheon is held Mondays at noon at the Cedar City Crystal Inn. The public is invited to attend the luncheons where Southern Utah's in-season coaches talk about their upcoming contests and review the past week's action.

Captains: This year's captains are seniors Jackson Stevenett and Tyson Koehler.

The Coaches:

Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 1-4 in his first season at SUU and his first season as a head coach. Coach Robinson came to Southern Utah from LSU, where he spent three seasons on the staff. Prior to his time at LSU Robinson spent a season at William Jewell College and two seasons on the staff at his alma mater, Stanford. During his time as an assistant coach, Robinson helped guide his teams to a combined record of 87-47 and four post-season appearances, including two NCAA, one NIT and one NAIA Division I national tournaments.

Robinson is assisted by Jared Barrett (Eastern Oregon, 1996), Todd Okeson (Nevada, 2005) and Drew Allen (Southern Utah, 2010).

TCU is coached by Trent Johnson (Boise State, 1986), who was one of Robinson's college coaches as well as the coach he worked under at both Stanford and LSU. Johnson takes a career mark of 232-186 into Thursday's game, including a 5-2 record in his first season at TCU. Coach Johnson is 0-0 vs. SUU.

San Diego Christian is coached by Tim Cook (Oregon, 1993), who is 10-20 in his second season at the helm of the Hawk program and his second season overall as a head coach. Coach Cook is 0-0 vs. the Thunderbirds.

Affiliations: Southern Utah is in its first season as a member of the Big Sky Conference. All of SUU's sports except gymnastics and men's golf compete in the Big Sky. Gymnastics is an affiliate member of the WAC while men's golf competes in the American Sky Conference. TCU is in its first season as a member of the Big 12 Conference. San Diego Christian is a member of the Golden State Athletic Conference.

The Schedule:

The Thunderbirds will have played eight non-conference games by the time they play their Big Sky opener at home against North Dakota on Dec. 17. Three of those games will be at home, three are true road contests, and two were neutral court match-ups, including the tournament at Nevada.

SUU opened at #21 Gonzaga, then played three games in three days at the World Vision Classic in Reno, Nev., meeting Green Bay, Cal State Fullerton and host Nevada before opening its home schedule last week against Carroll College.

Following this week's games the Thunderbirds will host San Diego on Dec. 4, then open conference play against UND on Dec. 17 before hitting the road for their final pre-season non-conference game, at Denver on Dec. 21.

Last Week: Southern Utah broke a season-opening four-game skid to give Coach Nick Robinson his first career win on Thanksgiving Eve with a 68-58 home win over Carroll College. Playing without leading scorer Jackson Stevenett, who was rested with an injury, the Thunderbirds overcame a slow start to roll past the Fighting Saints. Excluding Stevenett, everyone on the roster got at least three minutes of action against Carroll and no one played more than 25 minutes. Damon Heuir scored a season-high 16 points while Jaren Jeffery pulled down a career-best 11 rebounds to lead SUU. The Thunderbirds combined to pull down 40 rebounds, tying the season-high, and had a season-best eight steals as well vs. the Saints.

T-Bird Notes:

  •  Center Jayson Cheesman didn't take much time to break into the SUU record books. In his first game as a Thunderbird the junior transfer from Salt Lake Community College blocked five shots, which tied the sixth-highest single-game blocks total in SUU history. Cheesman has 12 blocks this season.
  • Jackson Stevenett's 29 points at Gonzaga is the highest single-game point total in the Big Sky this season. His 11 field goals made against the Zags is also the highest total in the conference so far this season, while his 11-of-15 shooting night (.733) ranks second-best in the Sky, behind Northern Colorado's Connor Osborne, who hit 8-of-9 shots against Southwest New Mexico.
  • Stevenett has scored 810 points in his three-plus seasons at SUU. He needs 267 to move into 10th place on the school's career scoring list.
  • SUU pulled down 40 rebounds vs. Carroll College. It was the second time this season the team reeled in 40 caroms, a feat it also accomplished against Green Bay. Last year's squad had as many as 40 rebounds just four times all season.

2012-13 Thunderbird Trivia:

  • SUU has nine lettermen, one squad member and one redshirt returning from last season's team that finished 8-10 (14-17 overall) and in sixth place in the Summit League.
  • Five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen make up the 2012-13 Thunderbird squad.
  • Senior Jackson Stevenett was a second-team all-Summit League honoree last season and he also earned a spot on the five-player Summit League all-tournament team.
  • SUU advanced to the Summit League tournament as the number six seed last year, then upset third-seeded Oakland (84-82) in the tournament's first round before falling to eventual tourney champion South Dakota State (63-47) in the semi-finals.
  • Nick Robinson is the eighth head men's basketball coach in SUU's 50-year history as a four-year institution.
  • Nevada's World Vision Classic was the fourth in-season tournament for the Thunderbirds in as many years. Last year SUU competed at San Diego State's Basketball Travelers Classic, in 2010 SUU traveled to the Great Alaska Shootout and in 2009 the team was in Hawai'i for the Rainbow Classic.
  • Southern Utah will play 14 home games this season, including 10 Big Sky Conference contests and one in the BracketBusters tournament. The 10 conference match-ups are the most ever in a season for SUU, a far cry from the four the team had in 1993-94 and 1994-95 when it was a member of the five-team American West Conference and there were just four home conference dates. The last several years SUU has played nine conference games per season in the Centrum.
  • In addition to Gonzaga and the World Vision Classic, SUU will play non-conference road games at TCU and at Denver this season.
  • SUU and the University of North Dakota are in their first seasons in the Big Sky, making it an 11-team conference. The Thunderbirds had been members of the Summit League (nee. Mid-Continent Conference) for the past 15 seasons before joining the BSC. As members of the 10-team Summit League the Thunderbird men's basketball team qualified for the conference's eight-team post-season tournament 14 of 15 seasons, missing only in 2009-10 when they finished ninth.
  • Seven teams qualify for the Big Sky tournament, which will be hosted by the regular-season champion, March 14-16.
  • SUU is in its 50th season as a four-year institution, its 25th at the NCAA Division I level. Prior to joining the NCAA Division I ranks the University spent two seasons at the Division II level and 23 as a member of the NAIA.

Scouting the Horned Frogs: TCU is one of the best defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to 52.7 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting. The Frogs have held five of their seven opponents below .400 from the field and have out-shot their opponents in six of seven contests so far this season. TCU leading scorer Kyan Anderson (G, 5-11, 175, So) poured in a career-high 35 points in the Horned Frog's 76-73 win over UAB last Saturday night. That performance lifted Anderson atop the team's scoring chart, at an even 12 points per game. He also leads the team with 3.1 assists per game and has a team-high 12 steals through the first seven games. Forward Garlon Green (6-7, 215, Sr) averages 8.7 points and 5.4 re bounds per game while three players, Jarvis Ray (G, 6-2, 195, Jr), Amrick Fields (F, 6-9, 220, Jr) and Devonta Abron (F, 6-8, 255, So) average in the 7-points per game range. Abron is also the team's top rebounder, with 6.4 per contest. As a team TCU has averaged 55.3 points on 44.4 percent shooting (.270 threes). The Frogs Have connected on 60.3 percent of their free throws and have out-rebounded their opponents by an average margin of 33.6 to 31.4.

Scouting the Hawks: Against NAIA competition (the only statistics which are available) San Diego Christian has three players carrying double-figure scoring averages, led by Raphael Rodriguez (G, 6-1, 180, So) at 15.0 points per game. Andy Saharan (G/F, 6-6, 190, Jr) checks in at 14.6 ppg, while Kevin Dawson (F 6-6, 215, Sr)  averages 12.0 ppg. Dawson also leads the team in rebounding, with 6.4 caroms per game, while Peter Beale-Wirsing (F, 6-7, 225, Jr) pulls down 5.4. Derrick Thompson (G, 5-9, 165, Jr) leads the Hawks with 5.0 assists per game. Against NAIA competition the Hawks have averaged 81.8 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting (.430 threes) while allowing 79.8 points on .476 shooting (.320 threes). SDCC has knocked down 74.3 percent of its free throws and has out-rebounded its NAIA opponents by a 37.8-33.6 margin.