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Thunderbirds Victorious in Big Sky Debut
Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
Release: 12/18/2012
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CEDAR CITY, Utah, Dec. 17 – Senior guard Jackson Stevenett scored 21 points to help Southern Utah come away with a 79-67 win over North Dakota in its first Big Sky outing. The Thunderbirds shot almost 48 percent from the field as a team while holding their opponents to just 30 percent.

“As far as the Big Sky, this was a good win for us,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “It’s a good step, but we still have a long road ahead of us.”

The scoring from both sides was even in the early going as a Cal Hanks lay-up tied the game up at eight five minutes in and a Wade Collie three leveled the score at 11-11 just moments later.

Southern Utah then tore off a 17-6 run, capped by back-to-back threes from Collie and Stevenett, that ended with the Thunderbirds up 28-17.

North Dakota worked to narrow the margin in the closing minutes of the period, getting back within three as Josh Schuler connected from the outside with just over a minute to go. Jordan Johnson closed out the half by knocking down a jumper in the final seconds to make the SUU lead 39-33 at the break.

Stevenett and Collie both had 11 for Southern Utah in the first half, which shot 48.4 percent from the field as a team. North Dakota was 11-28 from the floor to start the game and led by Alonzo Traylor who scored nine points in the early going.

The Thunderbirds started the first four minutes of the second period on a 9-5 run that pushed their advantage back into the double figures as A.J. Hess sank a three to make the score 48-38 in favor of SUU.

The visitors mounted another rally halfway through the period as Aaron Anderson scored seven points in four minutes to bring UND within three at 56-53. The lead remained at three after the two sides traded baskets until Hess connected on another big three to put Southern Utah up by six at 65-59 with just under three minutes left to play.

Stevenett and Collie each added another score in the closing minutes and the T-Birds knocked down eight straight free throws in the last 60 seconds to help SUU take the game by a final score of 79-67.

Southern Utah recorded 12 blocks in the game, led by Hanks who set a new career mark by sending back five shot attempts. The SUU defense held their opponents to just 18 field goals on 60 attempts. The Thunderbirds were much more efficient on the night shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 42.9 from behind the arc. SUU also held a 42-38 rebounding advantage in the contest.

“I thought we executed well for the most part,” said Robinson. “Being on our home court after a week of practice helped us to be comfortable. We mixed up our defenses, played both man and zone and got a good effort from all of the guys.”

Stevenett put up 21 points in the win along with 10 boards and five assists. Collie finished with a new career high of 18 and Damon Heuir chipped in another 13 for the T-Birds. Anderson paced UND with 16 while Mitch Wilmer turned in a double double with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the visitors.

“Jackson did a nice job tonight, especially in the second half. He shot the ball well and was aggressive,” commented Robinson. “Wade gave us a huge spark off the bench.”

With the win Southern Utah begins the year 1-0 in Big Sky Conference play and now has an overall record of 3-6. North Dakota drops to 0-1 and 2-7 respectively.

SUU will be back in action this Friday with a road contest at the University of Denver. The Thunderbirds are set to tip things off against the Pioneers at 4 p.m.
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vs. Eastern Kentucky
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7:00 p.m.
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