CHENEY, Wash., Feb. 16 - Jackson Stevenett scored 26 points for the second straight game and A.J. Hess scored a career-high 24 but Eastern Washington countered with four players in double figures as Southern Utah lost an 86-72 decision at Eastern Washington Saturday afternoon.
For the second straight game the Thunderbirds struggled from the field while the opponent was comfortable shooting in its own gym. SUU hit just 9-of-31 shots in the first half, 29 percent, and although they improved in the second half the T-Birds finished at 36.4 percent after knocking down 21-of-64 shots overall. Meanwhile, EWU hit 13-of-26 shots in the first half and bettered that in the second half, hitting 16-of-28 after the break for a .537 afternoon.
"Eastern Washington was very aggressive offensively in the first half," SUU Coach Nick Robinson pointed out. "I thought we did a decent job defensively, but they were able to knock down some open threes at opportune times and that allowed them to get a little bit of a lead and they sustained it. I thought we played hard for 40 minutes tonight. We were down a couple of guys at the tail end of the game but I thought we played hard, we just didn't play very smart at times throughout the game."
Damon Heuir - Southern Utah's second-leading scorer who was averaging 18.2 points per game - went scoreless in the first period for the first time all year. Stevenett was the Thunderbirds' best threat in the first period as he scored 19 points after hitting nine free throws and a pair of 3-pointers among his four baskets in the half.
Neither player made it to the end of the game, however, as Heuir was assessed a pair of technical fouls for an automatic disqualification, and Stevenett picked up his fifth personal with 3:59 to play.
Eastern Washington pulled away with a 10-2 first half run that began at the 7:30 mark with a Collin Chiverton 3-pointer and was capped by another Chiverton jumper. SUU managed just a Stevenett basket during the run that saw EWU extend an 18-16 advantage to a 28-18 lead with 4:59 to play. The Eagles were able to push the advantage to 37-26 but SUU got back within 37-31 on a Stevenett 3-pointer with 49 seconds to go before settling for a 39-31 deficit at halftime.
SUU made the first basket of the second half to back within six, but the Thunderbirds' shooting woes continued and the Eagles took advantage, building a 58-41 lead with 12:53 to go.
Just before Jeffery Forbes hit a layup to give the Eagles the 17-point lead Heuir was assessed his second of technical the game, eliminating him from the competition. Heading down the stretch the Thunderbirds pulled back within nine on several occasions, but could get no closer.
Chiverton finished with 18 points to lead the Eagles.
Even with the loss SUU remained tied for third place in the Big Sky, however, as North Dakota lost at home in overtime to Northern Arizona, leaving both the Thunderbirds and UND at 8-8 in conference play. Sacramento State and Montana State, which both came into Saturday at 7-8, play later tonight.
SUU dipped to 10-15 overall while Eastern Washington improved to 8-17 overall and 6-9 in league play.
NOTES: Jayson Cheesman pulled down 10 rebounds for SUU while Martin Seiferth had 10 to go with 13 points for the Eagles ... SUU tied its season-high with 16 assists ... Eastern Washington blocked 10 SUU shots, an opponent-high this season.