Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Mar. 4 – Damon Heuir matched his season-high with 29 points to make the most of his final game at the Centrum Arena Monday night, but the Thunderbirds still took an 86-74 loss to Montana (21-6, 17-1) in their home finale. The result drops Southern Utah (11-17) to 8-10 in Big Sky play and back into a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference standings.
“It was a great effort on senior night, our four seniors played extremely well,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “Damon had a great first half and Jackson had a great second half. We weren’t able to close out the game, it went into overtime, and they beat us.”
The Thunderbirds grabbed an early 9-2 edge as all three seniors in the starting lineup tallied a score. Tyson Koehler started things off with a running lay-in and Jackson Stevenett followed up with a mid-range jumper. Goaltending was then called as Heuir drove to the rim for a layup and he added a deep three from the wing to put SUU up by seven less than three minutes in.
Montana began to battle back and was able to even the game up at 22-22 after Kevin Henderson dropped in his first basket of the game. The two sides then traded scores until Spencer Coleman hit a three and a layup to spark a 9-0 run that gave the Grizzlies a 35-28 advantage in the closing minutes of the period.
Stevenett scored a jumper to halt the streak, then threw down a two-handed baseline slam to bring SUU back within three. Kareem Jamar recorded the final basket of the period however and Montana led 37-32 at the break.
Both teams shot 50 percent from the floor to start the game as Southern Utah connected on 12-24 shots and the Griz hit 13-of-26. Coleman led Montana with 14 first half points while Heuir hit three triples on his way to scoring 18.
Heuir picked up where he left off early in the second, hitting his fourth 3-pointer to cut the deficit back down to three. Jordan Johnson then added another shot from the outside to bring SUU within one, with the score at 41-40.
Montana stretched its lead back to seven on a pair of free throws from Jamar, but Heuir scored eight straight for the T-Birds to bring the margin down to 51-49 approaching the halfway-mark of the second period.
The Grizzlies refused to relinquish the lead however until back-to-back threes for A.J. Hess made the count 63-62 in favor of Southern Utah late in the half. Stevenett then tacked on a jumper in the key to push the advantage to three with less than two minutes remaining.
Jamar scored a lay-in to bring the margin back to one, but Stevenett used another turn-around make from the post to bring the score to 67-64 with just over a minute to play. Gregory Jordan then hit a big three for Montana to tie the game and SUU took the ball out of bounds on a timeout with 12 seconds left.
Hess was called for a travel on the inbounds play, giving the ball back to the Grizzlies. Jamar dribbled the length of the court and pulled up for a shot from just inside the arc, which caught the back of the iron. The ball bounced off a couple of Montana players but the horn sounded before another attempt could be made at the basket.
The Grizzlies took the first advantage of the overtime period after Mike Weisner sank a pair of free throws in their opening possession. Another trip to the line stretched the margin to three and Jamar worked inside for a layup, making it five straight points for the visitors.
A Montana foul then sent Heuir to line, where his first attempt rimmed out, but Stevenett was there for the tip-in and a foul for a three-point play to bring it back to 74-70. Keron DeShields pushed the lead back to six with a driving score and Montana closed things out at the free throw line to take the 82-71 win.
The Thunderbirds shot 40.9 percent from the field in the game and 41.7 percent from three, but were just 10-17 at the foul line. The Grizzlies converted 31-34 at the stripe and shot 50.0 percent from the floor. Rebounds were essentially even as SUU grabbed 35 boards to Montana’s 34.
Heuir scored 12 of his 29 from three-point territory and Hess recorded all of his 15 from behind the arc. Stevenett finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Jamar led the Grizzzlies with 26 points, while Coleman had 16, DeShields chipped in 13 and Gregory turned in 14 along with seven boards.
“We have had opportunities to win and just haven’t executed, and a lot of that falls on me,” stated Robinson. “The issue for us tonight, which hasn’t been an issue for a long time was our free throws. To me, if you want to point at one thing, tonight it would be our free throws.”
SUU closes out the regular season this week with trips to Northern Colorado and North Dakota with a Big Sky Tournament bid still on the line. The Thunderbirds will face the Bears this Thursday at 7:00 p.m., then travel to UND on Saturday for a one o’clock tip. Coverage of the game is available at www.suutbirds.com.
Thu. Mar. 6
vs. North Dakota
(W) 77 -71
Sat. Mar. 1
(L) 54 -82
Thu. Feb. 27
@ Montana State
(L) 72 -77
Sat. Feb. 22
vs. Eastern Washington
(L) 74 -85
Thu. Feb. 20
vs. Portland State
(L) 79 -86
Sat. Feb. 15
vs. Idaho State
(L) 65 -75
Sat. Mar. 8
vs. Northern Colorado
(L) 52 -77
Thu. Mar. 13
Big Sky Tournament