BOZEMAN, Mont. Jan. 21 - Damon Heuir scored 20 points to lead three Southern Utah players in double figures but Montana State outscored SUU 9-2 over the final 2:38 to take a 76-68 men's basketball victory in Big Sky play Thursday night.
SUU lost its fifth straight to dip to 3-5 in the Big Sky and 4-12 overall while the Bobcats improved to 4-4 in conference play and 7-9 overall. SUU slipped into a six-way tie for fifth place in the BSC while Montana State moved into a tie with North Dakota in third place.
"We had our chances to win this basketball game and kinda get over the hump, but obviously that basketball team was eight points better than we were tonight," SUU Coach Nick Robinson said.
Southern Utah trailed 36-31 at halftime but came back to tie the game at 50-50 on a Jayson Cheesman layup with 11:55 to play. MSU got two free throws from Xavier Blount, then a short jumper from Antonio Biglow to go up 54-50 and although the Thunderbirds stayed within striking distance the rest of the way they were never able to take the lead.
Damon Heuir scored inside to pull the Thunderbirds within 59-58, but after a Bobcat timeout MSU got a dunk from Paul Egwuonwu and a layup from Christian Moon to push the edge back to five.
After Montana State pushed the lead up to five on a Flavien Davis basket the Thunderbirds got a free throw from Jackson Stevenett and a layup from Heuir to get back within 67-65. SUU then got a defensive rebound and had a chance to tie or take the lead but Heuir's three from the corner was off the mark.
SUU had another chance to tie or take the lead after Blount missed a pair of free throws but again Heuir's 3-point attempt was off the mark and Marcus Colbert pulled down the rebound, was fouled, and hit two free throws to give MSU a 69-65 lead with 57 seconds to play, and the Thunderbirds were able to get no closer than three the rest of the way.
"In terms of down the stretch I thought we had a chance when they missed a free throw but got an offensive rebound and were able to take more time off the clock," Robinson noted. "We had the momentum at that point but we weren't able to make a basket. Our guys fought hard tonight but we couldn't get out of the rut. Hopefully we'll do a better job when we get back home to Cedar City."
Stevenett finished with19 points and Cheesman had a season-best 13 with eight rebounds and three blocks while Jordan Johnson dished out six assists and pulled down seven rebounds, both career-highs. SUU was without the services of starting forward Jaren Jeffery, who was suffering from illness.
Moon led Montana State with 24 points while Blount finished with 13 and Egwuonwu had 10.
SUU out-rebounded the Bobcats 37-33, finished with 13 assists and 13 turnovers.
"Thirteen turnovers is encouraging for us, since we've been averaging about 17 but they still were able to get 14 points off those turnovers and that's too many," Robinson said.
-- SUU --