Southern Utah’s men’s basketball team wraps up a two-game homestand Saturday night when the Thunderbirds host Montana State in the Centrum.

SUU (1-17/0-9 Big Sky) is coming off a 69-61 home loss to two-time defending Big Sky champion Montana on Thursday night. The Thunderbirds, who are looking for their first conference victory of the season, have been constantly improving but coming up just short in the last two weeks. In their last four games the Thunderbirds have lost a 65-59 decision to pre-season BSC favorite Weber State, had a 90-83 setback against Eastern Washington and were edged by Portland State, 67-64, all on the road, before returning home and leading Montana at half before surrendering 47 second-half points to the Grizzlies and again falling just short.

Montana State (9-10/4-4 Big Sky) has had a week off since its last game, a 69-64 setback at Idaho State. The Bobcats opened Big Sky play with three straight wins and victories in four of their first five league games – including a 70-55 home win over Northern Colorado, the Bears’ only conference loss heading into this week – but they have come up short in their last three BSC games.

The Game:Montana State (9-10/4-4) at Southern Utah (1-17/0-9), Saturday at 7:05 p.m. (MST) in the Centrum Arena (5,300), Cedar City, Utah.

Practice Schedule:While at home the Thunderbirds work out daily, beginning at 3:00 p.m. with occasional adjustments due to travel and class schedules. Practices are held in the Centrum Arena. All practices are open to the public.

Media Availability:Players and coaches are made available for interviews on Tuesdays prior to practice at 2:30 p.m., with occasional adjustments because of travel and class schedules.

Radio:All SUU men’s basketball games are broadcast live by Power 91 KSUU (91.1 FM) as well as on the internet at www.power91radio.com. 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:All of Southern Utah’s home games and Big Sky road games will be available on Watch Big Sky, at www.bigskytv.org. Audio of SUU home and road games is available at the Thunderbirds’ website at www.suutbirds.com or at www.power91radio.com.

Live Stats:Live stats of all of SUU’s home games and selected road contests will be available at www.suutbirds.com.

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.

The Series:The Bobcats hold an 11-3 edge in the series after sweeping the season series last year. Montana State edged the Thunderbirds in Cedar City last year, 62-61. All three SUU wins have come in the Centrum, including a 68-62 win during the 1996-97 season – the last time the teams met prior to SUU joining the Big Sky – a 79-70 win in triple overtime during the 1992-93 campaign and a 93-91 win in the 1990-91 season, the team’s first win in the series after the Bobcats had come out on top of the first five meetings.

The Coaches:

SUU Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford ‘05), a 2013 finalist for the Joe B. Hall Award which honors the top first-year coach in the nation, has a record of 12-37 in his second season at SUU and his second season overall as a head coach. In his first year at SUU Coach Robinson led the Thunderbirds to a sixth-place finish in the Big Sky Conference, earning a BSC tournament berth in the school’s first season in the league. SUU posted an 11-20 overall record, including an 8-12 mark in Big Sky games last year, when two Thunderbirds, seniors Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir, earned all-conference honors.  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 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. Coach Robinson is 0-2 vs. Montana.

Robinson is assisted by Todd Okeson (Nevada ‘05), Chad Bell (Nevada ‘06), and Drew Allen (Southern Utah ‘10). Yahosh Bonner (Northern Colorado ‘10) serves as Director of Basketball Operations. Okeson and Allen were with the Thunderbirds last season while Bell and Bonner are in their first seasons with the program.

Brad Huse (Montana Tech, 1989) is 102-126 in his eighth season at MSU and 286-184 in his 16th season overall as a head coach. Coach Huse is 2-0 vs. SUU.

Captains:This year’s captains are seniors Jayson Cheesman and Jaren Jeffery and junior Chris Nsenki.

Pre-Conference Schedule: The Thunderbirds’ non-conference schedule was one of the toughest in the nation, as SUU’s strength of schedule to this point ranked 46th in Division I and second in the Big Sky after their nine non-conference games. The Thunderbirds’ 2013-14 SOS has been as high as 34th. The non-conference schedule was heavy with road contests as the team scheduled just three official games in the Centrum before the conference opener. The Thunderbirds went 1-2, with a win over Arizona Christian and losses to UC Riverside and UNLV, at home in the pre-season and 0-6 on the road. The road slate included games at No. 23 San Diego State, California, Utah State, San Diego, Portland and Cal State Northridge.

SUU by the Numbers:Overall, the Thunderbirds are averaging 56.5 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting (.329 threes) while knocking down 72.1 percent of their free throws. SUU has allowed opponents an average of 75.4 points on .487 shooting (.379 threes) and has been out-rebounded by an average of 37.3-27.8 caroms per game. Freshman point guard Trey Kennedy leads the team in scoring and assists with 11.2 points and 2.7 dimes per game, while sophomore wing A.J. Hess is second in scoring at 9.1 ppg. Sophomore forward Casey Oliverson leads the team in rebounding with 5.1 caroms per game while senior forward Jaren Jeffery is second on the squad with 3.7 boards per game. Freshman guard John Marshall leads the team in steals with 0.9 theft per game while senior Jayson Cheesman averages a team-best 1. block per outing.

Scouting Montana State:

The Bobcats are 6-2 at home this year and 3-6 on the road, including a 3-1 record in Big Sky home games and a 1-3 mark in conference road contests. The Bobcats’ outlasted Portland State in their first BSC road game, 79-76, but have come up short in their last three, including a 77-72 setback at Eastern Washington, an 86-57 loss at Weber State and last Saturday’s 69-64 loss at Idaho State. 

Senior forward Flavien Davis (6-5, 225) leads the Bobcats in scoring at 11.4 points per game, while senior center Paul Egwuonwu (6-9, 235) and sophomore guard Marcus Colbert each chip in 9.5 ppg. Egwuonwu pulls down a team-high 7.2 rebounds and Colbert averages a team-high 3.4 assists per game.

As a team the Bobcats have averaged 71.1 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting (.362 threes) while allowing opponents 70.1 ppg on .462 shooting (.377 threes). Montana State has knocked down 68.7 percent of its free throws and has out-rebounded its opponents 616-to-615 this season, averages of 32.4 caroms per game.

Young T-Birds:Southern Utah is one of the youngest teams in America, with just 10 combined seasons of collegiate experience heading into the 2013-14 campaign. SUU has five true freshmen (not including walk-ons) on the roster and three of the five have played in every game. Freshman point guard Trey Kennedy has started all but one game while guard John Marshall has started 10 games and wing Juwan Major has started four. Wing McKay Anderson has had one start – alongside Kennedy, Major and Marshall – at Cal State Northridge. Wing Race Parsons hasn’t had a start but he has appeared in all but one game. In addition to the freshmen, forward Casey Oliverson, a sophomore in his first season with the Thunderbirds, has started 10 games.

Thunderbird Notes:

• Sophomore forward Casey Oliverson scored a career-high 14 points vs. Montana while freshman wing Race Parsons equalled his career-best with eight points vs. the Grizzlies. Freshman guard Trey Kennedy scored a team-high 17 points, making it 12 games in which he has either led or co-led the T-Birds in scoring.

• Oliverson, who played a career-high 33 minutes, pulled down a game-high seven rebounds vs. Montana. He has led or co-led the Thunderbirds in rebounding nine times.

• Kennedy – who was on the floor 35 minutes, also a career-high – and sophomore wing A.J. Hess each had five assists vs. Montana; Hess tied his career-high while Kennedy was one shy of his career-best. Kennedy also pulled down a career-best four rebounds vs. the Griz.

• The Thunderbirds held Montana to .318 shooting (7-of-22) in the first half but the Grizzlies came back to hit 13-of-20 shots in the second frame, 65 percent.

• SUU out-rebounded Montana 30-24. It was the ‘Birds’ largest advantage on the glass this season.