T-Bird Men Take On Weber State

February 08, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication
Chris Nsenki tied his career high with 10 points, including 3-3 shooting from 3-point range, at Idaho State on Thursday
Chris Nsenki tied his career high with 10 points, including 3-3 shooting from 3-point range, at Idaho State on Thursday
Courtesy: SUU Strategic Communications

Southern Utah's men's basketball team plays the second game in a four-game road stretch Saturday night at Weber State.

The Thunderbirds (10-12/8-5 Big Sky) are riding their longest winning streak in 11 years, five in a row, after out-lasting Idaho State, 81-79, in overtime on Thursday night. Since snapping a five-game skid with a 76-63 win over Portland State on Jan. 24, the Thunderbirds rattled off wins against Eastern Washington (69-55), Sacramento State (79-67) and Northern Arizona (78-67) - all at home - before picking up the win at ISU on Thursday.

SUU's win over Idaho State, coupled with a Montana State loss to North Dakota, left the T-Birds all alone in third place in the Big Sky, 2 1/2 games behind the Wildcats and five back of league-leading Montana.

Weber State (15-5/10-2 Big Sky) finished a four-game road stretch last week. The Wildcats swept North Dakota (66-51) and Northern Colorado (85-64) last week after falling at both Montana (79-74) and Montana State (76-74) the previous week and falling out of a tie with the Griz for first place in the Big Sky. WSU is currently all alone in second place in the Sky. This is the Wildcats' only game this week

The Game: Southern Utah (10-12/8-5) at Weber State (15-5/10-2), 7:05 p.m. Dee Events Center (12,000) Ogden, Utah.

The Series: Weber State holds a 23-6 edge in the series with the Thunderbirds, including six straight victories and a 16-2 lead in games played in Ogden. WSU claimed an 81-74 win in Cedar City earlier this season and a 84-66 win in Ogden, Utah last year. Southern Utah's last win against the 'Cats was a 75-63 triumph in Cedar City during the 2006-07 season.

TV: There will be no live television coverage of Saturday's game.

Radio: All of Southern Utah men's basketball games are broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM). Art Challis is in his 40th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis - 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. Saturday's game will be broadcast by Jerry Miller, the voice of Idaho State basketball, as Dr. Challis is unable to call the game after losing his voice to laryngitis.

On The Internet: Video web-streaming coverage of all of Southern Utah's home games and Big Sky road games is 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.power91radio.com.

Live Stats: Live stats of Southern Utah's home games are available on the SUU website at www.suutbirds.com. 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 is 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: Players and coaches will be available Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. unless travel schedules dictate otherwise. On weeks when the team is traveling on Tuesday the interviews will be held on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

Thunderbirds To Host Northridge In BracketBuster: SUU will host Cal State Northridge in the BracketBuster tournament at 7:35 p.m. on Feb. 23. The Matadors and Thunderbirds competed against each other in the American West Conference (along with current Big Sky member Sacramento State) during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.

Coming Up: The Thunderbirds remain on the road next week as they continue the season-long four-game road stretch with games at Portland State (Feb. 14) and Eastern Washington (Feb. 16). The next home contest following Saturday's match-up with NAU will be the BracketBuster game vs. Cat State Northridge on Feb. 23.

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.

Heuir Named BSC Player of the Week: SUU's Damon Heuir earned his second Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award on Monday following his play in the Thunderbirds' wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona last week. Heuir averaged 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in the two wins. He scored 28 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal in the team's 79-67 win over Sacramento State, then scored 27 points with four rebounds, an assist and a steal two nights later against the Lumberjacks. Heuir's first BSC Player of the Week award came after he scored 30 points to lead SUU to its first road win of the season, a 90-77 victory at Northern Arizona on Jan. 5. That week he shared the honors with Weber State's Scott Bamforth.

The Coaches: 

Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 8-12 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 0-1 versus WSU.

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

Weber State is coached by Randy Rahe (Buena Vista '82). Coach Rahe, who is in his seventh season at Weber State brings an overall and WSU record of 135-73 into the game. Coach Rahe is 6-1 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. Weber State is a charter member of the Big Sky.

The Schedule: The Thunderbirds have played nine non-conference games, three at home, four true road contests, and two neutral court match-ups. They have played four conference games at home and two on the road. SUU opened at #21 Gonzaga, then played three games in three days at the World Vision Classic, meeting Green Bay, Cal State Fullerton and host Nevada before opening its home schedule against Carroll College. SUU also played non-conference games at TCU, at Denver, and at home against San Diego Christian and San Diego. SUU has just one non-conference game remaining, a BracketBuster match-up at home on Feb. 23.

Last Time Out: Jackson Stevenett scored 22 points to lead five Thunderbirds in double figures as Southern Utah outlasted Idaho State in overtime, 81-79. Damon Heuir added 17 points and tied his career-high with eight assists while A.J. Hess scored a career-high 12 points and Cal Hanks and Chris Nsenki each finished with 10. Stevenett and Jayson Cheesman each pulled down eight rebounds as the Thunderbirds won the battle of the boards, 42-38. Cheesman has pulled down five or more rebounds in 14 of the last 15 games. In a game that was close throughout, with 13 ties and 21 lead changes, Heuir and Hess each hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds of overtime to hold off ISU. Both teams missed chances to win in the final seconds of regulation. After a timeout Heuir drove the baseline but lost the ball out of bounds with 4.2 seconds to play, then when ISU got the ball Tomas Sanchez, a hero of ISU's 54-53 win in Cedar City last month, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

T-Birds In The National Ranks: The Thunderbirds have three players ranked in the top-100 in the NCAA through Thursday's games, and the team ranks among the top 100 in three categories as well. Jayson Cheesman ranks 41st in the nation in blocks per game with an average of 2.18, while Jackson Stevenett is 47th in free throw percentage at .857 (and 101st in points per game at 16.7) and Damon Heuir cracked the top-100 in scoring this week and is now 95th at 16.8 ppg. As a team the Thunderbirds are 25th in the country with 5.2 blocks per game, 40th in rebounding margin (plus 5.5) and 45th in free throw percentage (.734).

T-Birds In The Big Sky: 

(Through Monday) Heuir and Stevenett are 1-2 in scoring in the conference when all games are considered. Heuir averages 16.8 points per game while Stevenett checks in at 16.4 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage at .854, seventh in rebounding with 6.15 per game, eighth in offensive rebounds per game (2.1) and 11th in defensive rebounds per game (4.1). Heuir is also fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.2) and 10th in free throw percentage (.798), while Cheesman second in blocks per game with 2.2 when all games are considered, sixth in rebounding with 6.19 rpg and seventh in defensive rebounds with 4.5 per game. Cal Hanks is seventh in blocks per game with 1.1. The team leads the conference in offensive rebounds (12.0 rpg), and is second in field goal percentage defense (.420), in blocks (5.2 per game), in rebounding margin (plus-5.0) and in defensive rebounds (26.2 drpg).

When only conference games are considered Heuir is second and Stevenett is third in the Big Sky with 18.7 and 18.4 points per game respectively. Heuir is third in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and fourth in free throw percentage (.853) while Stevenett is sixth in free throw percentage at .824. Cheesman is sixth and Stevenett is eighth in rebounding with 6.9 and 6.6 caroms per game, respectively, with Stevenett fifth in offensive rebounds (2.3 rpg) and Cheesman sixth in defensive rebounds (5.0). Cheesman is also third in blocks per game (2.0) and Hanks is seventh in blocks (1.3). Stevenett also ranks eighth in field goal percentage (.531). The team leads the league in offensive rebounds (12.6 pg), in 3-point defense (.297) and in field goal percentage defense (.382), is second in defensive rebounds (26.3 per game) and rebounding margin (plus-4.3), and is third in scoring average (70.2 ppg), scoring margin (plus-4.1 ppg) and blocked shots per game (5.5).

Moving Up The Ranks:

Jackson Stevenett is in position to become only the third T-Bird to rank in the career top-10 in both scoring and rebounding. Stevenett has 1,094 points in his three-plus seasons as a Thunderbird. With his 22 points at Idaho State he moved from 11th to ninth on SUU's career scoring list, passing Russell Otis (1,077 from 1984-86) and Ted Thomas (1087 from 1986-89). He also has 449 career rebounds, which ranks 13th all time at SUU. He passed former SUU standout Dan Beus (436, 2000-02) with his 10 boards against NAU and now needs just one to tie Robin Haight, who had 450 from 1972-to-1976, in 12th place and 14 boards to move into the SUU career top-10, where Davor Marcelic (1988-92) is 10th with 463. Barton is second on SUU's career scoring list with 1,419 points and is fourth on its rebounding list with 557 while Lee is second in rebounding with 652 boards and fifth in scoring with 652 points. Barton played in 1986-87 then returned to the team after an LDS church mission to lay the 1990-93 seasons while Lee played from 1974 to 1977.

Jayson Cheesman - who went without blocking a shot for just the third time this season last Thursday against Sac State - has 48 rejections this season, which is tied for fourth on SUU's single-season list and seventh on the career list. He is tied with Kenyatta Clyde (1998-99) on the single-season list. He needs five to tie Sean Allen's 53 in 1993-94 and 16 to tie Matt Hodgson (2009-10) atop the single-season list. Next up on the career chart is Donnie Jackson, who rejected 55 shots from 2001 to 2003.

Cleaning The Glass:

  • The Thunderbirds have won the battle of the boards 17 times this season. They were out-rebounded in their first three games then won the battle of the boards in nine straight contests before Sacramento State had a 41-38 edge on the boards in the first meeting between the two teams and Weber State held a 46-41 advantage. SUU got back on the glass vs. Idaho State, however, and has out-rebounded every subsequent opponent. The T-Birds out-boarded the Bengals 43-34, edged Montana 30-28, had a 37-33 advantage over Montana State, slipped past Portland State 33-32, finished with a 44-38 margin against Eastern Washington, came out on top in the rematch with SAC, 41-26, out-rebounded Northern Arizona 39-34 and bested the Bengals in the rematch, 42-28.
  • SUU has reeled in 40 or more caroms 11 times this season. Last year's team had a total of four 40-rebound games.
  • SUU pulled down a season-high 51 rebounds vs. San Diego Christian. The team's high mark vs. a Division I foe was 45, against Northern Colorado.

Block Party:

  • SUU averages 5.2 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Big Sky. The Thunderbirds have rejected 115 shots this season, including 12 against North Dakota, SUU's highest total since the team combined for 13 rejections against Panhandle State on Dec. 14, 2010 and the highest total in the Big Sky so far this season. The Thunderbirds were in double-digits against San Diego as well, when they blocked 10 shots.
  • 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.
  • Cal Hanks tied Cheesman in sixth place on that single-game list when he came off the bench to block five shots against North Dakota. Hanks has 25 blocks so far and needs eight to move into SUU's single-season top-10.
  • SUU blocked seven shots vs. Northern Arizona last week, giving the team five or more blocks in a game 14 times this season.
  • SUU had four blocks against Eastern Washington, three by Cheesman, but the Eagles had seven, with three players swatting a pair of shots. It was just the second time this season, Green Bay was the other, that the Thunderbirds had more shots blocked than they blocked themselves.

T-Bird Notes:

  • SUU's 81-79 win at Idaho State was the team's first overtime game this season and thus Coach Nick Robinson's first win in overtime. Both of the Thunderbird/Bengal games went down to the wire, with ISU winning 54-53 in Cedar City before SUU took the win in Pocatello.
  • Heuir tied his career-high with eight assists at Idaho State.
  • A.J. Hess scored a career-best 12 points at ISU, including a big 3-pointer down the stretch in regulation and two free throws with four seconds to play in overtime to clinch the win.
  • Northern Arizona is probably happy to see the last of Heuir. The senior guard scored 30 points in the first match-up between SUU and NAU - the highest total in the Big Sky until NAU's Gabe Rogers poured in 35 vs. North Dakota on Jan. 26 - and he poured in another 27 last Saturday. In his two games against the Lumberjacks, Heuir hit 15-of-30 shots, 7-of-12 3-pointers and hit 20-of-24 free throws. He also averaged four rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals and blocked a shot against NAU.
  • Heuir has scored in double figures in 11 straight games, with 14 or more points in each game and four 20-point-plus efforts. Jackson Stevenett has posted double-figures in 16 straight, including six during the streak of 20 or more. Until Wade Collie came off the bench to score a team-high 18 against Eastern Washington either Heuir or Stevenett had led the team in every game this year. Heuir has led the team in scoring 11 times while Stevenett has set the pace in 10 contests.
  • Stevenett notched his third double-double of the season vs. NAU with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Jordan Johnson dished out a career-best seven assists vs. NAU. It was the third time in the last six games he has posted a new career-high in dimes.
  • SUU limited Idaho state to 41.2 percent shooting and has held 10 of its last 13 opponents under 42 percent.
  • The Thunderbirds hit 15-of-25 shots in the second half against Portland State and 18-of-30 after the break against Sacramento State. Both worked out to be 60.0 percent nights, the team's second-best second halves of the season (behind .630 vs. San Diego Christian) and their third-best halves overall (.625 in the first half at Northern Arizona) this season.
  • SUU tied its season-low with 11 turnovers vs. PSU and had the fewest turnovers in the game (the Vikings had 14) for just the third time this season. Two nights later the 'Birds turned it over just 12 times while Eastern Washington also had a dozen turnovers. Against Sacramento State SUU had just 11 turnovers again, but the Hornets gave the ball up just eight times, then SUU and NAU tied with 13 turnovers apiece.
  • Stevenett scored 19 points at Montana to give him exactly 1,000 for his career. He is just the 11th player in SUU history to break the 1,000 point mark and just the third to cross that threshold since Richard Barton finished his career with 1,419 points in 1993 (third on SUU's all-time list). Jeff Monaco finished his career in 2001 with 1,568 points (second) while Davis Baker finished his in 2010 with 1,205 (sixth).
  • As a team Montana hit just two 3-pointers and attempted just seven, opponent season-lows for SUU. The Grizzlies also went without a blocked shot, marking the only time this season an opponent didn't reject at least one T-Bird try.
  • Julian Scott, who missed five games with a foot injury, then played in the NAU, Sac State, Weber State and Idaho State games, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in practice January 18.
  • The Thunderbirds had just four players foul out of the nine non-conference games (including two at TCU) then had 13 disqualifications in the first eight Big Sky contests, including two at both Northern Arizona and Sac State and three against Weber State and at Montana. The 'Birds went without a disqualification for three games before Jordan Johnson was disqualified at ISU.
  • SUU was the first team to win its first three Big Sky Conference games in its first season of play since Boise State started out 4-0 back in 1970-71.
  • Stevenett has scored a career-high 29 points twice this season, at Gonzaga and again in the first game vs. Weber State. Stevenett's 11 field goals made against the Zags is tied as the second-highest total in the conference this season.
  • 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. Jayson Cheesman finished with 12 points and both Jaren Jeffery and Jordan Johnson had 10. For Cheesman and Johnson the totals were career-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 Hanks, who finished with a then-career-high seven points, was 3-for-3 from the field as SUU finished with a season-best 55.9 field goal percentage.
  • 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 vs. the Hawks, while Collie had four and all but two Thunderbirds who saw action dished out at least one.

Scouting Weber State: Three Wildcats carry double-figure scoring averages, led by wing Davion Berry's (6-4, 185, Jr) 14.3 ppg. Berry, who also paces the team in assists with 3.3 per game, is followed by Scott Bamforth (G, 6-2, 190, Sr) at 13.5 ppg and Kyle Tresnak (C, 6-10, 255, Jr) at 12.0. In all, seven players on the WSU roster average 7.0 points or more per game. Tresnak is third on the team in rebounding with 5.6 per game, behind Joel Bolomboy (F, 6-9, 215, Fr), who has come off the bench in all 20 games to corral 8.2 caroms per game and block a team-high 35 shots, and Frank Otis (F, 6-6, 220, Sr), who averages 6.0 rpg and 9.2 ppg. As a team the Wildcats have scored at a Big Sky-leading 77.2 points per game clip on 50.5 percent shooting, including a Big Sky-leading .418 from 3-point range. Bamforth is the biggest threat from downtown, having knocked down 48-of-109 threes (.440), while Jordan Richardson (G, 6-1, 185, Jr), who averages 7.5 ppg, has hit 30-of-65 from long-range (.462). Richardson is third in the conference in 3-point percentage while Bamforth is eighth. The Wildcats have limited opponents to 62.0 points per game (lowest in the BSC) on 39.1 percent shooting and just .268 from 3-point range. WSU has hit 71.1 percent of its free throws and out-rebounded opponents by an average of 36.5-to-30.9 caroms per game.