SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 10 – Sacramento State jumped on Southern Utah early and then held on late in notching a 68-56 Big Sky Conference win Thursday night.
Jaren Jeffery hit 9-of-11 shots en route to a career-high 21 points while Juwan Major hit 5-of-8 shots and finished with 11 to lead the Thunderbirds but Sac State held SUU’s two leading scorers, Trey Kennedy and A.J. Hess scoreless in the game.
The Hornets scored the first 11 points and held a 36-20 advantage at halftime as SUU started slowly, hitting just 8-of-24 shots while Sacramento State hit 15-of-24 in the opening period.
“Unfortunately I didn’t prepare our guys well enough with the start we had and that’s on me,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “We’ve been playing better lately but we just didn’t come out prepared to play tonight. Jaren had a great game and Juwan had a good game but unfortunately all our guys weren’t ready to play tonight and that’s on me.”
SUU’s shooting and defense improved in the second half, when the T-Birds hit 14-of-27 shots (.519) and held SAC to 11-of-29 (.379), leading to a late charge.
After trailing by as many as 20 in the second period the Thunderbirds made a run in the final minutes, cutting the deficit to 62-52 on a Jeffery dunk with 1:31 to play, then after Case Rada made one of two free throws for the Hornets, Jeffery scored again to make it a 63-54 game with 1:08 to play.
After SUU fouled immediately Mikh McKinney hit two free throws, however, then scored a layup after an SUU turnover, making it a 67-54 game and effectively sealing the outcome. McKinney scored 15 points to pace the Hornets while Dylan Garrity, who had 21 when the teams met in Cedar City last month, finished with 13.
“We played much better in the second half but we just had to much to overcome,” Robinson noted.
Southern Utah dipped to 0-12 in Big Sky play and 1-20 overall while the Hornets evened their conference mark at 6-6 and moved to 10-11 overall.
SUU hosts Big Sky leader Weber State on Thursday night in the Centrum.