Men's Hoops Opens Home Slate Vs. Carroll College

November 20, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Damon Heuir led SUU in scoring in two of the three games at the World Vision Classic last weekend
Damon Heuir led SUU in scoring in two of the three games at the World Vision Classic last weekend
Courtesy: SUU Strategic Communications

Southern Utah's men's basketball team opens its home schedule Wednesday night when the Thunderbirds host Carroll College at 7:05 p.m. in the Centrum Arena.

SUU (0-4/0-0 Big Sky) will be looking for its first win of the season after traveling to Gonzaga on Nov. 9 and to Nevada's World Vision Classic last weekend. In their last game the Thunderbirds gave Nevada all it wanted for the first 30 minutes but the Wolf Pack heated up down the stretch to overcome an eight-point deficit and go on to post a 79-61 win over the Thunderbirds.

Carroll College (0-5/0-0 Frontier) is also in search of its first win. The Saints lost a pair of games over the weekend, going down to the wire before falling at home to Eastern Oregon, 88-84, then getting upended by Embry Riddle on Saturday night by an 83-51 count. 

The Game: Carroll College (0-5/0-0) at Southern Utah (0-4/0-0), 7:00 p.m. Wednesday in the Centrum Arena (5,300).

The Series: This will be the third meeting between the two teams and each won one of the previous contests. The Saints took a home 85-80 decision the first time the teams met, way back in the 1971-72 season, and the Thunderbirds claimed a 72-68 home win during the 1999-2000 campaign.

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 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 coverage of all of Southern Utah's home games and Big Sky road games will be available on Big Sky TV, at Audio of all SUU games is available by logging on to the Thunderbird website at or at

Live Stats: Live stats of Southern Utah's home games are available on the SUU website at 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 travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to take on TCU Thursday night.

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 0-4 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).

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. Carroll College is a member of the NAIA and competes in the Frontier Conference.

The Schedule: 

Including the opener at Gonzaga and the World Vision Classic, 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.

The home season opens Wednesday when the Thunderbirds host Carroll College in the Centrum arena. Following that game its back on the road for a game at TCU against one of Coach Robinson's mentors, Trent Johnson, who is in his first season at the helm of the Horned Frog program.

The T-Birds return home to host three straight in the Centrum following the TCU match-up. SUU opens December against San Diego Christian on Dec. 1, hosts San Diego on Dec. 4, then opens conference play against UND on Dec. 17 before hitting the road for its final pre-season non-conference game, at Denver on Dec. 21.

Last Week: Southern Utah traveled to the University of Nevada where it took on Green Bay, Cal State Fullerton and host Nevada. Friday night against Green Bay the Thunderbirds were cold early and got down by as many as 15 points before pulling back within seven points but they could never get closer in a 66-54 loss. Jackson Stevenett led the T-Birds with 15 points while Wade Collie had eight rebounds and five assists against the Phoenix. On Saturday SUU ran into a red-hot Cal State Fullerton squad that shot 73 percent from the floor in the first half and 64.9 for the game en route to a 112-69 victory. CSF forced 31 SUU turnovers to negate a night that saw four T-Birds finish in double figures, led by Damon Heuir's 14 points. Stevenett chipped in 13 points while Julian Scott had 11 and Chris Nsenki finished with a career-high 12. SUU finished the tournament Sunday afternoon against Nevada and led most of the game before the Wolf Pack overcame an eight point second-half deficit and pulled away late for a 79-61 win. Heuir once again scored 14 to lead the team, while Scott finished with a career-high 13 points and Collie had 12 points with six rebounds and three assists.

Quick Impact: 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.

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 will be 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 this week's 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 (ne. 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 Saints: Carroll College will be playing its third road game of the season Wednesday night. After opening with a 91-72 home loss to Montana State-Billings, the Saints lost on the road at Concordia (Ore.), 77-73, and College of Idaho, 68-56, before returning home for games against Eastern Oregon (88-84 loss) and Embry Riddle (83-51 loss). The Saints have averaged 67.2 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting (.395 threes) and they have connected on 81.3 percent of their free throws. CC has allowed 81.4 points per game with opponents shooting .488 from the floor (.423 threes) and the Saints have been out-rebounded by an average of 36.2-28.4 per game. Three Saints carry double-figure scoring averages, with Nick Jones (G, 6-5, 185, Jr) at 13.8, Dennis Mikelonis (G/F, 6-6, 190, Jr) at 12.8 and Ben Cutler (G, 6-0, 185, Sr) at 10.6 points per game. Brett Ball (G/F, 6-6, 195, Jr) averages a team-high 4.8 rebounds with Mikelonis second at 4.4, while Chris McGrath (G, 6-2, 195, Jr) averages 3.8 assists and Noah Kone-Nelson (C, 6-7, 225, Jr) averages 3.4. Kone-Nelson has also blocked nine shots through five games.