Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Feb. 23 – Southern Utah (11-15, 8-8 BSC) held on for a 73-72 win over visiting Cal State Northridge (13-16, 4-11 Big West) in its Ramada Worldwide Bracketbusters game Saturday night. The Thunderbirds trailed by as many as 13 early on and didn’t take their first lead until the second half, but a late basket by junior center Jayson Cheesman helped the team come away with the one-point victory.
“This was another exciting game and a great team effort,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “Our guys made gutsy plays on offense and defense. We have been streaky when it comes to wins and losses and to defend our home court on Bracket Buster weekend is huge for us.”
The Thunderbirds fell behind 13-3 after starting the game 1-8 from the field. Northridge center Brandon Perry completed two three-point plays at the foul line for six quick points in the first five minutes to help the Matadors jump out in front.
SUU senior Damon Heuir connected on a three during a 6-0 spurt that brought the T-Birds back within seven approaching the 12-minute mark, but the visitors answered with six straight of their own to stretch the lead to 24-11 halfway through the opening period.
The Thunderbirds battled back over the next five minutes as Cheesman and Jackson Stevenett combined to score ten straight for Southern Utah, narrowing the deficit to 28-24. Then in the final minute of a half a stolen pass by Jordan Johnson would turn into a fastbreak three for Chris Nsenki to bring the game within one as SUU went into the locker room down 35-34.
Southern Utah shot 35.3 percent from the floor in the first half to the Matadors’ mark of 53.8 percent, but scored eight second chance points on nine offensive rebounds and turned 11 CSUN turnovers into 12 points to keep things close.
The Thunderbirds took their first lead of the night on their first possession of the second half as Cheesman worked inside for a basket to make the count 36-35. They later stretched the advantage to five after a pair of free throws from Jaren Jeffery made the score 51-46 halfway through the period.
The Matadors rallied with a couple of baskets in transition, but Heuir, Nsenki and Stevenett each connected from the outside in succession to keep Southern Utah in front as it held on to a 60-57 edge with just over seven minutes left to play.
Things remained close in the final minutes as Stevenett hit four free throws around the three-minute mark to give SUU a five-point edge and Trevone Williams hit the Matadors first three of the night to bring it back to a two-point game. Allan Guei then drove inside for a layup to knot the score at 68-68 with 1:32 left on the clock.
After a quick timeout, Southern Utah worked the ball around until Hess found some room on the wing where he knocked down a three to retake the lead. A lay-in on the other end from Maxwell brought it back to a one-point game and a steal an uncontested dunk for Hicks put the Matadors up with 21 seconds remaining.
Heuir drove the length of the court off the SUU inbounds pass and threw up a shot from the top of the key that missed the mark but Cheesman came up with the loose ball and put in a layup to give the Thunderbirds a 73-72 lead. The Matadors took the ball back with 12 seconds left, but the Southern Utah defense held strong to seal the win.
The Thunderbirds upped their shooting percentage to 40.0 percent for the game in the second half while the Matadors finished at 45.3 percent. The two teams were even on boards, each grabbing 34 rebounds. SUU hit six threes in the contest while holding CSUN to just one make from the outside, the lowest total of any its opponents this season.
Stevenett led all scorers with 21 points and Heuir added another 18. Cheesman matched his career mark with 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Maxwell scored 20 points to top the Matadors, who got 12 more from Perry.
Southern Utah now returns to Big Sky play with its last two home games scheduled for the coming weeks. The Thunderbirds face Montana State this Thursday at 7:05 p.m. before hosting Montana for senior night on Monday, March 4. Coverage of the games is available on www.suutbirds.com.
Sat. Mar. 8
vs. Northern Colorado
(L) 52 -77
Thu. Mar. 6
vs. North Dakota
(W) 77 -71
Sat. Mar. 1
(L) 54 -82
Thu. Feb. 27
@ Montana State
(L) 72 -77
Sat. Feb. 22
vs. Eastern Washington
(L) 74 -85
Thu. Feb. 20
vs. Portland State
(L) 79 -86
Thu. Mar. 13
Big Sky Tournament