Thunderbirds Pull Triple Overtime Upset Victory Over Bobcats at Big Sky Championships
By SUU Strategic Communication
RENO, Nev. – The No. 11 seed Thunderbirds pulled a triple-overtime upset victory over No. 6 seed Montana State in the first round of the 2017 Big Sky Championships, marking the first Big Sky Tournament victory in SUU history.
“The momentum and the belief of this team—and the size of our heart—is bigger than anything,” SUU head coach Todd Simon said. “In that regard, these guys know that we’re ready to roll.”
Randy Onwuasor led the Thunderbirds in the victory with not only a career-high, but also a Big Sky Tournament record 43 points. Will Joyce also finished with a career-high and a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Onwuasor said the team was very confident coming into the game that they were going to come out on the winning side.
“We came into this game knowing we were supposed to win, we weren't hoping to win, we knew we were supposed to win,” Onwuasor said. “We had that confidence all season long, we just couldn't put it together.”
The Thunderbirds fought back from a 15-point second half deficit to force the game into not one, not two, but three overtimes before pulling the victory.
The Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Onwuasor, posted 18 overtime points after finishing 12 of 14 from the free throw line.
McGee said the coach staff has put the team in situations that prepared them well for these types of situations.
“We were tired, but we were mentally prepared for this,” McGee said.
Joyce started the Thunderbirds off strong with the opening six-straight SUU points. The game knotted at 12 before a Christian Musoko dunk put the T-Birds in the lead.
The game tied again at 17s and 20s before the Bobcats rallied, outscoring the Thunderbirds 22-9 to round out the first half for a 42-29 halftime advantage.
At the half, Onwuasor led the Thunderbirds with 10 points as Joyce chipped in seven.
McGee drained two 3-pointers in the first half to hit his 1,000th career point as a Thunderbird. The junior guard finished with 16 points.
When McGee was asked if he could remember a game that was more fun to be a part of, he said, “No, not right now, I can’t think of one.”
Eight minutes into the second half, the Thunderbirds cut the gap and tied the game up at 49s. The game tied a handful of times throughout the following minutes before MSU pulled ahead for a 78-76 lead with :33 to play.
McGee was fouled after launching a trey with :09 to play before draining two of three from the three point line to tie up the score at 78s and send the game into its first overtime.
The back-and-forth battle continued well into the first overtime as the game was tied up six times. The final tie at 93-93 after a pair of Onwuasor free throws forced the game into its second overtime.
MSU’s Tyler Hall drained a trey to begin 2OT before a pair of Harald Frey free throws and a second Hall triple extended the Bobcat lead to 101-95 with 3:14 to play. The Thunderbirds held MSU scoreless throughout the remainder of the second overtime and poured in a six-point rally to tie the game at 101-101 and push the game into its third and final overtime.
The opening two minutes of the final overtime were scoreless before Joyce drained a free throw followed by a layup to give the T-Birds a 104-101. MSU and SUU traded free throws before Onwuasor drained yet another two from the charity strike, giving the T-Birds a 108-102 edge.
The Bobcats hit a trey in the final seconds before a Marshall free throw polished the game off for a 109-105 triple overtime Thunderbird victory, advancing Southern Utah to round two of the Big Sky Tournament.
The Thunderbirds will face in-state rival Weber State in round two of the Big Sky Tournament on Thursday, March 9, in the Reno Events Center at 8:05 pm (PST) and 9:05 pm (MST).
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