SAN DIEGO, Calif., Dec. 21 – Eric Rippetoe came of the bench to score 14 points and A.J. Hess added 13 but Southern Utah gave up a pair of 12-0 runs to San Diego, one in each half, as the Toreros claimed a 67-52 win over the Thunderbirds Saturday afternoon.
Rippetoe – who was playing in just his second game after sitting out fall semester concentrating on academics – hit five of six shots, including 3-of-3 3-point attempts. He also added three assists and a rebound.
“What a great outing for Eric Rippetoe, we’re fortunate to have him back at Southern Utah,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “He was a redshirt at Southern Utah, then went to a junior college for two years and we’re happy he chose to come back. He played extremely well tonight.”
The two teams were neck-and-neck through the first 10 minutes of the game and SUU held a 12-11 lead after a Hess 3-pointer with 10:38 to play but the Thunderbirds went cold after that point, going without a point until Rippetoe hit a 3-pointer at the 3:56 mark.
SUU missed seven straight shots and the Thunderbirds fell behind 24-12 before Rippetoe’s three. Rippetoe added a traditional 3-point play with 2:03 to go in the half, pulling the Thunderbirds within 29-20, but the Toreros wound up with a 33-22 lead at halftime.
San Diego opened the second half with another 12-0 run, stretching the 11-point lead to 45-22 before Casey Oliverson scored inside to end the Thunderbird drought. USD went on to push its lead to 53-26 on a pair of Johnny Dee free throws but Southern Utah battled back, cutting into the deficit and closing the game with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers by Chris Nsenki and Race Parsons.
“We did a much better job in the second half of moving the basketball,” Robinson noted. “We felt we got the shots we wanted in the first half, we were being very aggressive in the paint but had some shots that just didn’t fall.”
“I thought our guys played extremely hard. Jayson [Cheesman, who had two blocks] had quite the presence defensively,” Robinson added. “It was a good game for us, good matchups, but give their staff credit, they did a good job putting their guys in position to win. Our guys battled, we just need to continue to improve.”
Oliverson pulled down a game-high nine rebounds and added eight points for the Thunderbirds on 4-of-6 shooting.
Dee led all scorers with 16 points while Dennis Kramer added 15 and pulled down eight rebounds to lead the Toreros.
SUU dipped to 1-8 on the season with the loss while USD improved to 9-4. The Thunderbirds are now off until Jan. 2 when they open Big Sky play at North Dakota.