Southern Utah's men's basketball team takes a break from Big Sky play this weekend as the Thunderbirds host Cal State Northridge on Saturday night in the final BracketBuster.
The Thunderbirds (10-15/8-8 Big Sky) will welcome their return to the Centrum as they are coming off their longest road stretch of the season, four games, including defeats in the last three. The Thunderbirds opened the stretch with an 81-79 overtime win at Idaho State to give the team its longest winning streak in 11 years, five games, but since that win the 'Birds have suffered a 75-58 setback at Weber State, a 90-69 loss at Portland State and an 86-72 defeat at Eastern Washington.
SUU remains in third place in the Big Sky, however, tied with North Dakota and one game ahead of Sacramento State, Montana State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado with two weeks of conference play remaining.
Cal State Northridge (13-14/4-11) has also lost three straight, including a 73-61 loss at UC Davis last Saturday night. Prior to the current skid - which began with an 83-80 loss to Big West leader Long Beach State - the Matadors had won three in a row. The Matadors are 5-9 on the road and are currently in ninth place in the Big West standings.
The Game: Cal State Northridge (13-14/4-11) at Southern Utah (10-15/8-8), Saturday at 7:35 p.m. in the Centrum Arena (5,200), Cedar City, Utah.
The Series: Southern Utah holds a 13-5 edge in the series with the Matadors, including an 8-0 mark in Cedar City. The last time the teams met, however, the Matadors claimed an 83-77 come-from-behind win in the opening round of BYU's Cougar Classic, early in the 1998-99 season. SUU and CSUN were both members of the American West Conference in 1994-95 and 1995-96, and as Division I independents prior to the forming of the AWC they met annually on a home-and-home basis for many years.
TV: There will be no television coverage of the game.
Radio: All of Southern Utah men's basketball games are broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM). Art Challis is in his 40th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis - chair of SUU's Department of Communication - is joined on home and selected road broadcasts by former SUU standout and current SUU VP for University Relations Dean O'Driscoll.
On The Internet: Video web-streaming coverage of all of Southern Utah's home games and Big Sky road games is available on Big Sky TV, at www.bigskytv.org. Audio of all SUU games is available by logging on to the Thunderbird website at www.suutbirds.com or at www.power91radio.com.
Live Stats: Live stats of Southern Utah's home games are available on the SUU website at www.suutbirds.com. Real-time live stats of SUU's home games are available to working media, contact the athletic media relations office for access information.
Video Highlights: Video highlights of the Thunderbirds' home games is 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.
Practice Schedule: The practice schedule calls for the Thunderbirds to work out daily at 3:15 p.m. in the Centrum Arena.
Media Availability: Players and coaches will be available Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. unless travel schedules dictate otherwise. On weeks when the team is traveling on Tuesday the interviews will be held on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
Coming Up: SUU hosts Montana State next Thursday then wraps up the home slate against Montana on Monday, March 4, before closing the regular season with a trip to Northern Colorado (March 7) and North Dakota (March 9).
Thunderbird Club Luncheons: The Thunderbird Club's weekly no-host luncheon is held Mondays at noon at the Cedar City Crystal Inn. The public is invited to attend the luncheons where Southern Utah's in-season coaches talk about their upcoming contests and review the past week's action.
Heuir Named BSC Player of the Week: SUU's Damon Heuir earned his second Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award following his play in the Thunderbirds' home wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. Heuir averaged 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in the two wins. He scored 28 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal in the team's 79-67 win over Sacramento State, then scored 27 points with four rebounds, an assist and a steal two nights later against the Lumberjacks. Heuir's first BSC Player of the Week award came after he scored 30 points to lead SUU to its first road win of the season, a 90-77 victory at Northern Arizona on Jan. 5. That week he shared the honors with Weber State's Scott Bamforth.
Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 8-14 in his first season at SUU and his first season as a head coach. 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 seasons 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. Robinson is 0-0 vs. CSUN.
Bobby Brazwell (Azusa Pacific, 1990) is 250-255 in his 17th season at the helm of the Cal State Northridge program and his s127th season as a head coach overall. Coach Brazwell is 0-0 vs. the Thunderbirds.
Affiliations: Southern Utah is in its first season as a member of the Big Sky Conference. All of SUU's sports except gymnastics and men's golf compete in the Big Sky. Gymnastics is an affiliate member of the WAC while men's golf competes in the American Sky Conference. CS Northridge is a member of the Big West Conference.
The Schedule: The Thunderbirds have played nine non-conference games, three at home, four true road contests, and two neutral court match-ups. They have played four conference games at home and two on the road. SUU opened at #21 Gonzaga, then played three games in three days at the World Vision Classic, meeting Green Bay, Cal State Fullerton and host Nevada before opening its home schedule against Carroll College. SUU also played non-conference games at TCU, at Denver, and at home against San Diego Christian and San Diego. Saturday's game is the Thunderbirds' final non-conference match-up of the season.
Last Time Out: Jackson Stevenett scored 26 points for the second straight game and A.J. Hess added a career-high 24 but Eastern Washington countered with four players in double figures as Southern Utah lost an 86-72 decision at EWU. For the second straight game the Thunderbirds struggled from the field while the opponent was comfortable shooting in its own gym. SUU hit just 9-of-31 shots in the first half, 29 percent, and although they improved in the second half the T-Birds finished at 36.4 percent after knocking down 21-of-64 shots overall. Meanwhile, EWU hit 13-of-26 shots in the first half and bettered that in the second half, hitting 16-of-28 after the break for a .537 afternoon. Damon Heuir - Southern Utah's second-leading scorer, who was averaging 18.2 points per game - went scoreless in the first period for the first time all year. Stevenett was the Thunderbirds' best threat in the first period as he scored 19 points after hitting nine free throws and a pair of 3-pointers among his four baskets in the half. Neither player made it to the end of the game, however, as Heuir was assessed a pair of technical fouls for an automatic disqualification, and Stevenett picked up his fifth personal with 3:59 to play. Jayson Cheesman pulled down 10 rebounds for SUU. The T-Birds tied their season-high with 16 assists. Eastern Washington blocked 10 SUU shots, an opponent-high this season.
T-Birds In The National Ranks: (Through Monday) The Thunderbirds have two players ranked in three categories in the NCAA's top-100, and the team ranks among the top 100 in three categories as well. Jackson Stevenett ranks 14th in free throw percentage (.884) and 56th in scoring (17.7 ppg) while Jayson Cheesman ranks 39th in blocks per game with an average of 2.2. As a team the Thunderbirds are 29th in the country with 5.1 blocks per game, 57th in rebounding margin (plus 4.5) and 58th in free throw percentage (.728).
T-Birds In The Big Sky:
(Through Monday) Stevenett and Heuir are first and third in scoring in the conference when all games are considered. Stevenett leads the league at 17.7 points per game while Heuir checks in at 16.2 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage at .884, sixth in rebounding with 6.2 per game, seventh in offensive rebounds per game (2.1) and ninth in defensive rebounds per game (4.0). Heuir is also fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.0) and 10th in free throw percentage (.792), while Cheesman is second in blocks per game with 2.2, fifth in rebounding with 6.4 rpg and seventh in defensive rebounds with 4.6 per game. Cal Hanks is seventh in blocks per game with 1.1. The team leads the conference in offensive rebounds (12.4 rpg), and is second in blocks (5.1 per game), rebounding margin (plus-54.5) and defensive rebounds (25.7 drpg) and third in field goal percentage defense (.433).
When only conference games are considered, Stevenett leads the league with 19.9 ppg while Heuir is fourth in the Big Sky with 17.3 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage (.878), third in minutes played (34.8 per game), sixth in offensive rebounds (2.4 rpg), seventh in overall rebounding (6.5 rpg), and 10th in field goal percentage (.507). Heuir is fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.4) and seventh in free throw percentage (.830) and 11th in assists (3.3 apg). Cheesman is third in blocks per game (2.0), sixth in rebounding with 7.0 caroms per game and tied for sixth in defensive rebounds (5.0), while Hanks is tied for seventh in blocks (1.2 bpg). The team leads the league in offensive rebounds (13.2 pg) and is second in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.329), defensive rebounds (25.4 per game) and rebounding margin (plus-3.6), and is third in scoring average (70.2 ppg), scoring margin (minus-0.1 ppg), free throw percentage (.748), field goal percentage defense (.329) and blocked shots per game (5.2).
Moving Up The Ranks:
With his eight rebounds at Eastern Washington Jackson Stevenett became just the third T-Bird to currently rank in the career top-10 in both scoring and rebounding. Stevenett has 1,170 points in his three-plus seasons as a Thunderbird, good for eighth on SUU's career scoring sheet. He needs 29 points to move past current Montana assistant Kerry Rupp (1975-77) to move into seventh place on the list and 36 to surpass former teammate Davis Baker (2007-10) for sixth. He also has 466 career rebounds, which ranks 10th all time at SUU. He passed Davor Marcelic (1988-92), who was 10th with 463 and now needs 27 to pass Dana Achtzehn (1990-92) for ninth place on the list and 33 to pass Lew Christensen (1965-69) for eighth. The only other two players currently in the top-10 in both scoring and rebound are Richard Barton and Robert "Dunn" Lee. Barton is second on SUU's career scoring list with 1,419 points and fourth on its rebounding list with 557 while Lee is second in rebounding with 652 boards and fifth in scoring with 652 points. Barton played in 1986-87 then returned to the team after an LDS church mission to lay the 1990-93 seasons while Lee played from 1974 to 1977.
Jayson Cheesman has blocked 55 shots this season, which is third on SUU's single-season list and tied for sixth on the career list. He needs five to tie Sean Allen's (1994-95) 60 in 1994-95 for second place and nine to tie Matt Hodgson (2009-10) atop the single-season list. He is tied with Donnie Jackson, who rejected 55 shots from 2001 to 2003, on the career list and needs four to tie Kerry Sherwood (1989-91) in fifth place with 59.
Cleaning The Glass:
- The Thunderbirds have won the battle of the boards 17 times this season but they have been out-rebounded in three straight games. SUU was out-rebounded in their first three games then won the battle of the boards in nine straight contests before Sacramento State had a 41-38 edge in the first meeting between the two teams and Weber State held a 46-41 advantage in the first meeting. SUU out-rebounded each subsequent opponent, a stretch of eight games, before Weber State pulled in 39 caroms to 33 for the 'Birds when the teams played in Ogden two weeks ago. Portland State had a 37-36 advantage, and Eastern Washington also edged the 'Birds by one, 41-40.
- SUU has reeled in 40 or more caroms 12 times this season. Last year's team had a total of four 40-rebound games.
- SUU pulled down a season-high 51 rebounds vs. San Diego Christian. The team's high mark vs. a Division I foe was 45, against Northern Colorado.
- SUU averages 5.1 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Big Sky. The Thunderbirds have rejected 128 shots this season, including 12 against North Dakota, SUU's highest total since the team combined for 13 rejections against Panhandle State on Dec. 14, 2010 and the highest total in the Big Sky so far this season. The Thunderbirds were in double-digits against San Diego as well, when they blocked 10 shots.
- Jayson Cheesman has had two five-block and one four-block games this season, with both five-block efforts coming on the road. Cheesman didn't take much time to break into the SUU record books. In his first game as a Thunderbird, at Gonzaga, he blocked five shots, which tied the sixth-highest single-game blocks total in SUU history. He swatted five more at Weber State last week. The four-block effort came at home against San Diego Christian.
- Cal Hanks tied Cheesman in sixth place on that single-game list when he came off the bench to block five shots against North Dakota. Hanks has 25 blocks so far and needs eight to move into SUU's single-season top-10.
- SUU has five or more blocks in a game 15 times this season.
- SUU had four blocks against Eastern Washington, three by Cheesman, but the Eagles had seven, with three players swatting a pair of shots. It was just the second time this season - Green Bay was the other - that the Thunderbirds had more shots blocked than they blocked themselves.
- A.J. Hess hit 7-of-14 shots, 5-of-10 from 3-point range, to finish with a career-high 24 points at Eastern Washington. He doubled his previous career scoring high, 12 at Idaho State, with the effort.
- Jayson Cheesman has pulled down seven or more rebounds in six of the last seven games, including nine and 10 in the last two.
- Cheesman now has 159 rebounds this season and Jackson Stevenett has 148. If Stevenett gets two more it will mark the first time since the 2008-09 season that SUU has had two players with 150 or more rebounds. In '08-09 John Clifford pulled down 254 boards while Tyler Quinney finished with 155.
- Wade Collie has been dismissed from the squad for violation of team policies.
- The Thunderbirds had a season-low 10 turnovers at Weber State, unfortunately they also shot a season-low 29.1 percent. Jackson Stevenett hit 5-of-12 shots, 42 percent, no other T-Bird was better than .333. The team also had just six assists vs. the Wildcats, its second-fewest in 2012-13.
- Damon Heuir tied his career-high with eight assists at Idaho State, then went without a dime at Weber State. The WSU game was just his third without an assist this year.
- SUU's 81-79 win at Idaho State was the team's first overtime game this season and thus Coach Nick Robinson's first win in overtime. Both of the Thunderbird/Bengal games went down to the wire, with ISU winning 54-53 in Cedar City before SUU took the win in Pocatello.
- Chris Nsenki tied his career-high with 10 points at ISU, including a perfect 3-for-3 night from 3-point range.
- Northern Arizona is probably happy to see the last of Heuir. The senior guard scored 30 points in the first match-up between SUU and NAU - the highest total in the Big Sky until NAU's Gabe Rogers poured in 35 vs. North Dakota on Jan. 26 - and he poured in another 27 last Saturday. In his two games against the Lumberjacks, Heuir hit 15-of-30 shots, 7-of-12 3-pointers and hit 20-of-24 free throws. He also averaged four rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals and blocked a shot against NAU.
- Stevenett has posted double-figures in 19 straight games, including nine games during the streak with 20 or more points. Heuir had scored in double figures in 13 straight games until finishing with just three at Eastern Washington. He had tallied 14 or more points in each of the 12 and four 20-point-plus efforts during the streak. Either Stevenett or Heuir has led the team in scoring in all but one game this year.
- Stevenett notched his third double-double of the season vs. NAU with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
- Stevenett hit the 1,000 career points mark with 19 at Montana, which give him exactly 1,000. He is just the 11th player in SUU history to break the 1,000 point mark and just the third to cross that threshold since Richard Barton finished his career with 1,419 points in 1993 (third on SUU's all-time list). Jeff Monaco finished his career in 2001 with 1,568 points (second) while Davis Baker finished his in 2010 with 1,205 (sixth).
- Julian Scott, who missed five games with a foot injury, then played in the NAU, Sac State, Weber State and Idaho State games, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in practice January 18.
- The Thunderbirds had just four players foul out of the nine non-conference games (including two at TCU) then had 13 disqualifications in the first eight Big Sky contests, including two at both Northern Arizona and Sac State and three against Weber State and at Montana. The 'Birds went without a disqualification for three games before Jordan Johnson was disqualified at ISU. Cal Hanks then fouled out at Weber State, Jaren Jeffery was disqualified at Portland State and Jackson Stevenett drew five fouls at Eastern Washington, making the total 17 in 16 conference games.
- SUU was the first team to win its first three Big Sky Conference games in its first season of play since Boise State started out 4-0 back in 1970-71.
- Stevenett has scored a career-high 29 points twice this season, at Gonzaga and again in the first game vs. Weber State. Stevenett's 11 field goals made against the Zags is tied as the second-highest total in the conference this season.
Scouting Cal State Northridge: The Matadors opened the season with six straight wins before falling at BYU, 87-75, on Nov. 24. Since the loss to the Cougars CSUN has not won more than three in a row but that three-game winning streak came immediately prior to the team's three-game skid when the Matadors beat Cal State Fullerton (92-86) and UC Riverside (69-53) on the road, then returned home to upend UC Irvine before falling to Big West-leader Long Beach State at home, 83-80. Last week the Matadors went on the road where they suffered a 66-59 loss at Pacific and a 73-61 setback at UC Davis. Wing Stephan Hicks (6-6, 200, So) leads three Matadors with double-figure scoring averages at 16.8 points per game, while Forward Stephen Maxwell (6-7, 220, So) adds 14.7 points and guard Josh Green (6-0, 180, Jr) checks in at 13.3 ppg. Maxwell and Hicks are also 1-2 on the team's rebounding charts, with 8.1 and 7.4 caroms per game, respectively, while Landon Drew (6-1, 175, Fr) leads the team with 3.8 assists per game despite starting just one contest. As a team the Matadors average 75.5 points per game on .438 shooting (.332 threes) while allowing opponents an average of 74.0 ppg on .466 shooting (.363 threes). Northridge has knocked down 71.7 percent of its free throws and has out-rebounded its opponents by an average of 37.4-to-34.1 caroms per game. CSUN is 1-1 in the state of Utah this season, with the loss to BYU and a 76-71 win at Utah. The two teams also have three common opponents: Eastern Washington, a team SUU split two games with and CSUN beat; Cal State Fullerton, which beat SUU and CSUN split two games with; and San Diego Christian, a team both SUU and CSUN handled easily.