T-Bird Men Host Toreros

December 03, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Senior captain Tyson Koehler
Senior captain Tyson Koehler
Courtesy: SUU Strategic Communications

Southern Utah's men's basketball team hosts the University of San Diego on Tuesday night in the team's only game this week. Following Tuesday's match-up with the Toreros the Thunderbirds will take a break for finals before returning to the court to open Big Sky play on Dec. 17, at home against fellow first-year BSC member North Dakota.

SUU (2-5/0-0 Big Sky) will be looking to build on its most convincing win of the season, a 95-65 triumph over San Diego Christian on Saturday night. The Thunderbirds dominated all phases of the game against the Hawks, shooting a season-high .559 from the floor while holding SDCC to .328, pulling down a season-high 51 rebounds (to 27 for the Hawks), dishing out a season-best 18 assists, and tying their season-low with 13 turnovers. The win answered a close loss at TCU on Thursday night and gave SUU two wins in its last three games.

San Diego (3-5/0-0 West Coast) won three of its first five games but has played the last three on the road and hasn't been able to break through away from San Diego. The Toreros suffered their second straight narrow road loss on Saturday, falling at Stephen F. Austin, 56-51. Prior to that game USD traveled to Montana where it fell 67-66 to the Big Sky pre-season favorite Grizzlies and the Toreros opened the road stretch with a 57-39 setback at UC Santa Barbara.

The Game: San Diego (3-5/0-0), at SUU (2-5/0-0), 7:05 p.m. (Mountain) in the Centrum Arena (5,300).

The Series: The Toreros hold an 9-0 edge in the series between the two teams. SUU is 0-3 vs. the Toreros in Cedar City. The last time the teams met was during the 1997-98 season when USD took an 84-59 victory in Cedar City.

TV: There will be no television coverage of Tuesday'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 - who also serves as the chair of SUU's Department of Communication - is joined on home and selected road broadcasts by former SUU standout and current SUU VP for University Relations Dean O'Driscoll.

On The Internet: 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 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 Tuesdays at 2:45 p.m.

Next Up: Following Tuesday's 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 2-5 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).

San Diego is coached by Bill Grier (Oregon, 1990). Grier is 74-102 in his sixth season at the helm of the Torero program and his sixth season as a head coach overall.

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. San Diego is a member of the West Coast 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 or have been 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 Nov. 21 against Carroll College.

SUU played two games last week, at TCU and at home against San Diego Christian. As mentioned above, the 'Birds open conference play against UND on Dec. 17 before hitting the road for their final pre-season non-conference game, at Denver, Dec. 21.

Last Week: SUU traveled to Ft. Worth, Texas, for a Thursday game at TCU then hosted San Diego Christian on Saturday night. The Thunderbirds led with 10 minutes to play at TCU but wound up coming up on the wrong end of a 61-52 decision. Damon Heuir scored a season-best 25 points and dished out three assists while Jayson Cheesman reeled in a career-best 13 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead the Thunderbirds. SUU out-rebounded the Horned Frogs 36-29 and committed 14 turnovers, their second-lowest turnover total of the season, with just four give-aways in the second half. The Thunderbirds rolled to a 95-65 win over SDCC, scoring a season-high 95 points on a season-best 55.9 percent shooting. The Thunderbirds had six players score in double figures and all but one who got into the game scored. SUU also had a season-high 18 assists vs. SDCC, and all but two players who got in the game had at least one dime, led by A.J. Hess's career-best five.

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. With four more against San Diego Christian on Saturday night (tying the number nine single-game total at SUU) Cheesman has 19 blocks this season and his 2.7 rejections per game average is second in the Big Sky Conference.
  • 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.
  • SUU had a season-high six players score in double figures against San Diego Christian. Stevenett led the way with 15, while Damon Heuir and Wade Collie each finished with 13. Cheesman finished with 12 points and both Jaren Jeffery and Jordan Johnson had 10. For Cheesman and Johnson the totals were season-highs while Collie's 13 were a season-high. Johnson was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor while Collie was 5-of-6 and Cal Hanks, who finished with a career-high seven points, was 3-for-3 from the field as SUU finished with a season-best 55.9 field goal percentage.
  • Stevenett has scored 826 points in his three-plus seasons at SUU. He needs 251 to move into 10th place on the school's career scoring list.
  • Cheesman pulled down 13 rebounds at TCU, the third-highest total in the Big Sky this season.
  • SUU pulled down a season-high 51 rebounds vs. San Diego Christian. Cheesman led the way again with nine, while Stevenett and Jeffery each pulled down eight rebounds. It was the third time this season the team has reeled in 40 or more caroms (the team had 40 against Green Bay and Carroll College). Last year's squad had as many as 40 rebounds just four times all season.
  • SUU leads the Big Sky in rebounding margin at plus-4.7 and is second in defensive rebounds per game (26.4) and blocks per game (4.6).
  • SUU combined for a season-high 18 assists vs. SDCC. Freshman A.J. Hess came off the bench to lead the squad with a career-high five dimes, while Collie had four and all but two Thunderbirds who saw action dished out at least one.

T-Bird 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 Summit League games per season in the Centrum.
  • SUU's non-conference road games this season included contests at Gonzaga and vs. Nevada at the World Vision Classic, at TCU and at Denver.
  • 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 Toreros: After opening the season with five straight at home the Toreros will be playing their fourth straight road game Tuesday night. USD is 3-2 at home but will be looking for its first road win after losses at UC Santa Barbara, Montana and Stephen F. Austin. USD and SUU have one common opponent this season, San Diego Christian; UCD opened the season with a 91-58 win over the Hawks while SUU came out on top of Saturday's contest vs. SDCC, 95-65. The Toreros have averaged 63.9 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting (.364 threes), while allowing opponents an average of 62.0 points on 42.2 percent shooting (.333 threes). USD has knocked down 71.6 percent of its free throws and is even with its opponents with averages of 32.0 rebounds per game. Individually, Johnny Dee (G, 6-1, 175, So) leads the team with a 14.3 points per game scoring average, while Chris Manresa (F, 6-9, 245, Sr) checks in at 14.0 ppg but he has not played since the opener vs. SDCC and he is reportedly questionable for Tuesday's game. Ken Rancifer (F 6-5, 215, Sr) pulls down a team-best 5.4 rebounds per game and Chris Anderson (G, 5-7, 150, So) - who is the team's third-leading scorer with a 10.0 ppg average - leads the squad with 5.4 assists per game.