Men's Hoops Wraps Up Road Trip At Northridge

December 02, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Junior guard Chris Nsenki has started four of the team's five games
Junior guard Chris Nsenki has started four of the team's five games
Courtesy: Darren Yamashita

Southern Utah’s men’s basketball team wraps up a two-game road swing Tuesday evening when the Thunderbirds take on Cal State Northridge at 7:00 p.m. (PST).

SUU (1-4/0-0 Big Sky) will be looking to snap a four-game slide after the Thunderbirds lost an 86-57 decision at Portland in the first game of the road trip on Sunday afternoon. The Thunderbirds, who opened the season with an 85-78 home win over Arizona Christian, will be looking for their first road win of the season.

Cal State Northridge (4-4/0-0 Big West) snapped a two-game slide with a 97-79 home win over La Sierra University on Sunday afternoon. The Matadors have played six of their first eight games away from home, including three neutral-court match-ups, but they are 2-0 in the Matadome as they opened the season with an 86-74 win over Hope International..

The Game:Southern Utah (1-4/0-0) at Cal State Northridge (4-4/0-0), 7:00 p.m. (PST) Tuesday in the Matadome (1,600).

Practice Schedule:The Thunderbirds work out daily, beginning at 3:00 p.m. Practices are held in the Centrum Arena. All practices are open to the public.

Media Availability:Players and coaches are made available for interviews on Tuesdays prior to practice at 2:30 p.m., with occasional adjustments because of travel and class schedules.

Radio:All SUU men’s basketball games are broadcast live by Power 91 KSUU (91.1 FM) as well as on the internet at 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:All of Southern Utah’s home games and Big Sky road games will be available on Watch Big Sky, at Audio of SUU home and road games is available at the Thunderbirds’ website at or at

Live Stats:Live stats of all of SUU’s home games and selected road contests will be available at

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.

The Series:Southern Utah holds a 14-5 edge in the series with the Matadors, including a 5-4 mark in games played at Northridge. The last time the teams met was last season when the Thunderbirds took a 73-72 home win in the final BracketBusters tournament. SUU claimed a 57-54 win in the last game at CSUN, in the semi-final round of the 1996 American West Conference tournament. SUU and CSUN were members of the American West together in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

The Coaches:

SUU Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005), a 2013 finalist for the Joe B. Hall Award which honors the top first-year coach in the nation, has a record of 12-24 in his second season at SUU and his second season overall as a head coach. In his first year at SUU Coach Robinson led the Thunderbirds to a sixth-place finish in the Big Sky Conference, earning a BSC tournament berth in the school’s first season in the league. SUU posted an 11-20 overall record, including an 8-12 mark in Big Sky games last year, when two Thunderbirds, seniors Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir, earned all-conference honors.  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 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. Coach Robinson is 1-0 vs. the Matadors.

Robinson is assisted by Todd Okeson (Nevada, 2005), Drew Allen (Southern Utah, 2010) and Chad Bell (Nevada, 2006). Yahosh Bonner (Northern Colorado, 2010) serves as Director of Basketball Operations. Okeson and Allen were with the Thunderbirds last season while Bell and Bonner are in their first seasons with the program.

Matador Coach Reggie Theus (California Coast University, 2002) is in his first season at the helm of the CSUN program and his third year overall. He compiled a record of 41-23 in two seasons as head coach at New Mexico State.

Affiliations:Southern Utah is in its second season as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Northridge is a member of the Big West Conference.

Captains:This year’s captains are seniors Jayson Cheesman and Jaren Jeffery and junior Chris Nsenki.

Pre-Conference Schedule:The Thunderbirds play nine official games before they open Big Sky play on Jan. 2 at North Dakota but the non-conference schedule is heavy with road contests as the team scheduled just three official games – with just one remaining – in the Centrum before the conference opener. After the Thunderbirds meet Cal State Northridge they return home for their only home game in December, a match-up with UNLV on Dec. 14. The team will then close out 2013 and the non-conference slate with a two-game trip to southern California, where it will face San Diego State on Dec. 18 and San Diego on Dec. 21.

SUU So Far:The Thunderbirds are averaging 61 points per game on 36.1 percent shooting (.325 threes) while knocking down 76.6 percent of their free throws. SUU has allowed opponents an average of 80.6 points on .479 shooting (.400 threes) and has been out-rebounded by an average of 40.2-29.8 through the first five games. Freshman point guard Trey Kennedy leads the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game, with sophomore wing A.J. Hess second at 8.8 ppg. Freshman wing Juwan Major contributes 8.0 ppg. Sophomore forward Casey Oliverson leads the team in rebounding with 5.0 per game while senior forward Jaren Jeffery is second on the squad with 3.6 caroms per game. Freshman guard John Marshall leads the ‘Birds with 3.0 assists and 1.25 steals per game per game, while senior Jayson Cheesman averages a team-best 1.4 blocks.

About the Matadors:

Three Northridge players carry double-figure scoring averages. Junior wing Stephan Hicks (6-6, 200), leads the way at 18.9 points per game while junior forward Stephen Maxwell contributes 17 and senior guard Josh Greene adds 14.8 ppg. Maxwell and Hicks are also 1-2 on the rebounding list, with 8.9 and 7.4 boards per game, respectively, while Greene averages a team-high 3.1 assists per contest. True freshman guard Aaron Parks brings some firepower off the bench with 9.3 points in just 21 minutes per game.

As a team the Matadors average 77.7 points on 45.5 percent shooting (.353 threes) and they have knocked down 77.7 percent of their free throws. Northridge has given up 80.6 ppg on .475 shooting (.369 threes) and the Matadors have been out-rebounded their opponents by an average of 33.6-to-32.0 per game.

Thunderbird Notes:

• Southern Utah has five true freshmen (not including walk-ons) on the roster and all five have played in every game. Freshman point guard Trey Kennedy has started every game while freshman wing Juwan Major got his first career start at Cal and has been in the starting line-up in the two subsequent games. The others have come off the bench in each contest.

• Freshman guard John Marshall came off the bench to dish out a team season-high eight assists at Portland. In the “stating the incredibly obvious” category, the total was also a career-high for Marshall.

• Freshman guard Trey Kennedy has led or co-led the Thunderbirds in minutes played in all but one game, including at Portland, where he and sophomore forward Casey Oliverson shared the lead with 25 minutes each.

• Senior forward Jaren Jeffery and sophomore wing A.J. Hess both had season-high rebounding efforts vs. UC Riverside. Jeffery pulled down eight boards while Hess reeled in seven, one shy of his career-high.

• SUU had 16 offensive rebounds at Cal. The team had 16 or more offensive boards just four times last year, 17 twice and 18 twice.

• Kennedy and junior guard Chris Nsenki both had career scoring highs vs. UC Riverside, with Kennedy leading the team with a career-best 15 points and Nsenki tying his career-high with 10. Nsenki also tied his career-best with three rebounds vs. the Highlanders.

• Oliverson has blocked five shots in the past two games. He blocked his first shot as a Thunderbird vs. UC Riverside and finished with three in that game, then had a pair at Portland. He is second on the team’s blocks list with five.

Jayson Cheesman blocked his first two shots of the season at Utah State, rejected two more at Cal, another vs. UCR and had two at Portland, giving him a team-high seven on the season and 67 for his career. He needs one rejection to tie Tarvish Felton (1996-98) in fourth place on the SUU career list with 68 and 18 to tie Felton’s teammate Kenyatta Clyde (1997-99) in third with 85. Junior center Cal Hanks blocked a shot in each of the first two games and had two more at Portland, giving him 40 in his career, the 10th-best total at SUU; he is five behind Richard Barton’s (1990-93) 45.