Southern Utah's men's basketball team wraps up its 2012-13 home schedule over the next week as the team hosts Montana State on Thursday and Montana on Monday.
The Thunderbirds (11-15/8-8 Big Sky) snapped a three-game skid with a 73-72 home win over Cal State Northridge last Saturday night. The win gave SUU five straight home wins and a 9-3 record at the Centrum this season. On Thursday the Thunderbirds will be looking to avenge a 76-68 defeat they suffered last month at Montana State. Since that loss they have gone 6-3 overall and 5-0 at home, including a five-game winning streak, their longest in 11 years.
SUU heads into the game in fourth place in the Big Sky, a half-game behind North Dakota and one game ahead of Montana State, Sacramento State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado with two weeks of conference play remaining.
Montana State (10-15/7-9 Big Sky) has come upon hard times in the last four weeks. The Bobcats were 9-9 overall and 6-4 and all alone in third place in the BSC after a home win over Idaho State on Jan. 26 gave them a three-game winning streak, but since that game they have gone 1-6, including home losses to North Dakota and Northern Colorado, and an 85-74 setback against South Dakota in the BracketBusters on Sunday. The only win during the stretch was a 70-64 triumph at Portland State on Feb. 2
The Game: Montana State (10-15/7-9) at Southern Utah (11-15/8-8), Thursday at 7:05 p.m. in the Centrum Arena (5,200), Cedar City, Utah.
The Series: The Bobcats hold a 10-3 edge in the series after the 76-68 win in Bozeman earlier this season but SUU won the last match-up in the Centrum, a 68-62 win during the 1996-97 season and the Thunderbirds are 3-2 overall against MSU in Cedar City. Montana State won the first five games in the series before SUU finally broke through with a 93-91 home win during the 1990-91 season.
TV: There will be no live television coverage of the 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.
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.
Coming Up: SUU wraps up the home slate against Montana on Monday before closing the regular season with a trip to Northern Colorado (March 7) and North Dakota (March 9). The Big Sky Conference tournament begins March 14 at either Montana or Weber State, depending on which team claims the regular-season title.
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.
Heuir Named BSC Player of the Week: SUU's Damon Heuir earned his second Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award following his play in the Thunderbirds' home wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. 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.
Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 11-15 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 vs. Montana State.
Brad Huse (Montana Tech, 1989) is 80-105 in his sixth season at MSU and 274-175 in his 14th season overall as a head coach. Coach Huse is 1-0 vs. SUU.
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. Montana State is a charter member of the Big Sky.
The Schedule: The Thunderbirds have played 10 non-conference games, four at home, four true road contests, and two neutral court match-ups. They have played eight conference games at home and eight 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, San Diego and Cal State Northridge.
Last Time Out: Jayson Cheesman capped off a double-double effort with a game-winning basket in the final seconds as Southern Utah outlasted Cal State Northridge in a BrackeBuster matchup, 73-72. Cheesman picked up a loose ball under the basket and put it in with 11 seconds to play, then the Matadors missed a pair of attempts on the other end before Damon Heuir corralled a defensive rebound to cement the win. SUU got off to a slow start, falling behind 18-5 at the 14:09 mark of the first half as the Matadors hit seven straight shots and converted a pair of 3-point plays in the early going. The T-Birds battled back, however, cutting the deficit to 26-22 on a short Jackson Stevenett jumper with 5:36 to go and Chris Nsenki's 3-pointer late in the period brought them within 35-34 at halftime. SUU got the first basket of the second half to take its first lead, at 36-35, and the game was close the rest of the way, with eight ties and nine lead changes. SUU built leads of five points four times in the half but could never build a bigger margin, and although CSUN never led by more than one after the break the Matadors had a 72-71 edge after Stephan Hicks stole an in-bounds pass and dunked with 21 seconds to play. Heuir then drove to the basket but his short jumper was off the mark, and although he grabbed his own rebound he lost it as time was winding down, setting up Cheesman's game-winning heroics. Stevenett scored 21 points to lead all scorers while Heuir finished with 18 and seven rebounds and Cheesman tied his career-high with 13 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.
T-Birds In The National Ranks: The Thunderbirds have two players ranked in three categories in the NCAA's top-100, and the team ranks among the top 100 in three categories as well. After hitting all six of his free throw attempts vs. Cal State Northridge Jackson Stevenett moved from 14th to ninth in free throw percentage at .889. Stevenett also ranks 49th in scoring (17.8 ppg) while Jayson Cheesman ranks 41st in blocks per game with an average of 2.15. As a team the Thunderbirds are 28th in the country with 5.1 blocks per game, 49th in free throw percentage (.732) and 59th in rebounding margin (plus 4.3).
T-Birds In The Big Sky:
Stevenett and Heuir are first and third in scoring in the conference when all games are considered. Stevenett leads the league at 17.8 points per game while Heuir checks in at 16.2 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage at .889, eighth in rebounding with 6.0 per game and seventh in offensive rebounds per game (2.1). Heuir is also fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.0), while Cheesman is second in blocks per game with 2.2, fifth in rebounding with 6.5 rpg and seventh in defensive rebounds with 4.7 per game. Cal Hanks is eighth in blocks per game with 1.1. The team leads the conference in offensive rebounds (12.4 rpg), and is second in blocks (5.1 per game), rebounding margin (plus-4.3) and defensive rebounds (25.5 drpg) and third in free throw percentage (.732).
When only conference games are considered, Stevenett leads the league with 19.9 ppg while Heuir is fourth in the Big Sky with 17.3 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage (.878), tied for third in minutes played (34.8 per game), sixth in offensive rebounds (2.4 rpg), seventh in overall rebounding (6.5 rpg), and 10th in field goal percentage (.507). Heuir is fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.4) and seventh in free throw percentage (.830). Cheesman is third in blocks per game (2.0), sixth in rebounding with 7.0 caroms per game and tied for sixth in defensive rebounds (5.0), while Hanks is tied for seventh in blocks (1.2 bpg). The team leads the league in offensive rebounds (13.2 pg) and is second in defensive boards (25.4), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.329) and rebounding margin (plus-3.6), and is third in scoring average (70.2 ppg), scoring margin (minus-0.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.748), field goal percentage defense (.412) and blocked shots per game (5.2).
Moving Up The Ranks:
With his eight rebounds at Eastern Washington Jackson Stevenett became just the third T-Bird to currently rank in the career top-10 in both scoring and rebounding. Stevenett has 1,191 points in his three-plus seasons as a Thunderbird, good for eighth on SUU's career scoring sheet. He needs eight points to move past current Montana assistant Kerry Rupp (1975-77) to move into seventh place on the list and 15 to surpass former teammate Davis Baker (2007-10) for sixth. He also has 469 career rebounds, which ranks 10th all time at SUU. He needs 24 to pass Dana Achtzehn (1990-92) for ninth place on the list and 30 to pass Lew Christensen (1965-69) for eighth. The only other two players currently in the top-10 in both scoring and rebound are Richard Barton and Robert "Dunn" Lee. Barton is second on SUU's career scoring list with 1,419 points and 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 has blocked 56 shots this season, which is third on SUU's single-season list and sixth on the career list. He needs four to tie Sean Allen's 60 in 1994-95 for second place and eight to tie Matt Hodgson (2009-10) atop the single-season list. He needs four to move past Kerry Sherwood (1989-91), who is in fifth place on the career list with 59.
The team has combined to block 132 shots, the second-highest total in school history, behind the 135 in 2010-11. The team's four blocks against Eastern Washington moved it past the 1997-98 squad, which rejected 126 shots and into second place.
Cleaning The Glass:
- The Thunderbirds have won the battle of the boards 17 times this season but they have not out-rebounded their opponent in the last four games after coming out even against Northridge, 34-34. SUU was 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 in the first meeting between the two teams and Weber State held a 46-41 advantage in the first meeting. SUU out-rebounded each subsequent opponent, a stretch of eight games, before Weber State pulled in 39 caroms to 33 for the 'Birds when the teams played in Ogden two weeks ago. Portland State had a 37-36 advantage, and Eastern Washington also edged the 'Birds by one, 41-40.
- SUU has reeled in 40 or more caroms 12 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.
- SUU averages 5.1 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Big Sky. The Thunderbirds have rejected 132 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 has had two five-block and one four-block games this season, with both five-block efforts coming on the road. Cheesman didn't take much time to break into the SUU record books. In his first game as a Thunderbird, at Gonzaga, he blocked five shots, which tied the sixth-highest single-game blocks total in SUU history. He swatted five more at Weber State last week. The four-block effort came at home against San Diego Christian.
- 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 has five or more blocks in a game 15 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.
- SUU is now 9-0 all-time at home against Cal State Northridge after the win on Saturday. In the team's brief BracketBuster life SUU went 1-1, with a loss at UC Riverside last year.
- Jackson Stevenett hit 6-of-6 free throws vs. CS Northridge. It was the seventh time this season he has been perfect from the line and the 14th time a Thunderbird has been perfect. He has hit 50-of-53 free throws over the last five games, including three perfect efforts (6-6 vs. CSUN, 7-7 at Idaho State and 9-9 at Portland State).
- The Thunderbirds were plagued early in the season by turnovers but have had more than 13 just once in the last 10 games, including a season-low nine at Weber State.
- Jayson Cheesman has pulled down seven or more rebounds in seven of the last eight games, including nine, 10 and 11 in the last three.
- Cheesman now has 170 rebounds this season and Jackson Stevenett has 151, marking the first time since the 2008-09 season that SUU has had two players with 150 or more rebounds. In '08-09 John Clifford pulled down 254 boards while Tyler Quinney finished with 155.
- A.J. Hess hit 7-of-14 shots, 5-of-10 from 3-point range, to finish with a career-high 24 points at Eastern Washington. He doubled his previous career scoring high, 12 at Idaho State, with the effort.
- 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 as a head coach. 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.
- Chris Nsenki tied his career-high with 10 points at ISU, including a perfect 3-for-3 night from 3-point range.
- 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.
- Stevenett has posted double-figures in 19 straight games, including nine games during the streak with 20 or more points. Heuir had scored in double figures in 13 straight games until finishing with just three at Eastern Washington. He had tallied 14 or more points in each of the 12 and four 20-point-plus efforts during the streak. Either Stevenett or Heuir has led the team in scoring in all but one game this year.
- Stevenett notched his third double-double of the season vs. NAU with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
- Stevenett hit the 1,000 career points mark with 19 at Montana, which give him exactly 1,000. 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).
- 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 first 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. Cal Hanks then fouled out at Weber State, Jaren Jeffery was disqualified at Portland State and Jackson Stevenett drew five fouls at Eastern Washington, making the total 17 in 16 conference games. Jeffery picked up five fouls against Northridge to make it five DQs in 10 non-conference games.
- 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.
- Wade Collie has been dismissed from the squad for violation of team policies.
Scouting Montana State: The Bobcats are 2-10 on the road this season, 2-7 in Big Sky play. The conference road wins came at Northern Colorado in early January and at Portland State on Feb. 2. The team's current five-game losing streak is its longest of the season, one more than an early-season four-game skid. Four Bobcats carry double-figure scoring averages, led by guard Christian Moon (6-2, 180, Sr) at 13.2 points per game. Xavier Blount (6-4, 210, Sr) averages 10.8 ppg, Flavien Davis (6-5, 205, Jr) averages 10.6 ppg and Antonio Biglow (6-0, 165, Jr) averages 10.5 ppg. Paul Egwuonwu (6-9, 235, Jr) leads the Bobcats in rebounding with 6.0 per game, with Blount and Davis at 4.3 rpg. Biglow is the team's top assist man with 3.1 per contest. As a team the Bobcats average 71.1 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting (.336 threes) while allowing opponents 73.8 ppg on .485 shooting (.370 threes). Montana State has knocked down 70.6 percent of its free throws and has been out-rebounded by an average margin of 35.0-to-32.5 caroms per game.