T-Bird Men Travel To World Vision Classic

November 13, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication
Courtesy: Torrey Vail

Southern Utah's men's basketball team travels to the University of Nevada's World Vision Classic this week, where the Thunderbirds will play three games in three days. SUU opens the tournament Friday night against Green Bay at 8:30 p.m. (PST), then faces Cal State Fullerton on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. before wrapping up the tourney against host Nevada at 3:30 Sunday afternoon.

SUU (0-1/0-0 Big Sky) will be looking for its first win of the season after traveling to Gonzaga last Friday and coming away with a 103-65 setback. Jackson Stevenett scored a career- and game-high 29 points in the loss and SUU shot nearly 50 percent from the field (.491), but the Thunderbirds struggled to protect the ball against the Zags' pressure defense, and 28 turnovers ultimately led to the team's undoing, first-year Head Coach Nick Robinson said.

Green Bay (1-0/0-0 Horizon) opened the season with a 72-67 home win over Chicago State last Saturday. The Phoenix shot just .313 from the floor, including a 1-for-17 night from 3-point range, but outscored CSU 42-34 in the second half to overcome a 33-30 halftime deficit and claim the win. Guard Keifer Sykes poured in 31 points and the Phoenix dominated the glass with a 45-31 rebounding advantage.

Cal State Fullerton (0-1/0-0 Big West) opened its season with an 81-68 loss at Stanford on Monday night. Sammy Yeager and D.J. Seeley each scored 16 points to lead the Titans, who had four players in double figures, but the Cardinal shot 55.2 percent from the floor and outscored CSF 50-37 in the second half to pull away from a 31-31 halftime tie and claim the win.

Nevada (0-1, 0-0 WAC) opened with a 78-64 loss at UC Irvine on Saturday. The Wolf Pack got 21 points from Malik Story but he was the only Nevada player in double figures. The Anteaters enjoyed a 51-37 rebounding edge in a defensive battle that saw both teams shoot below 40 percent, with Nevada at .345 (19-55) and Irvine at .394 (26-66).

The Game: Southern Utah (0-1/0-0) vs. Green Bay (1-0/0-0), 8:30 p.m. (Pacific), Lawlor Events Center (11,536), Reno, Nev.

The Series: This will be the second meeting between SUU and Green Bay. The Phoenix came out on top of the first game between the two, 65-58, in a game played in Green Bay back in January of 1995. Cal State Fullerton holds a 2-0 lead in the series with SUU, including a 99-63 win the last time the teams met, early in the 2007-08 season, and a 100-58 win during the 1986-87 campaign. Nevada also holds a 2-0 edge in its series with the Thunderbirds, a 74-73 win the last time the teams met, in 1989-90 and a 65-62 win in the 1985-86 season.

Radio: All of Southern Utah men's basketball games will be broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM) as well as on the internet at www.suu.edu/ksuu. Art Challis will be in his 40th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis is joined on home and selected road broadcasts by former SUU standout Dean O'Driscoll.

On The Internet: Video web-streaming coverage of the weekend's games will be available on a pay-per-view basis at http://www.nevadawolfpack.com. All of Southern Utah's home games and Big Sky road games will be available on Big Sky TV, at www.bigskytv.org. Audio of SUU games is available at the Thunderbirds' website at www.suutbirds.com or at www.suu.edu/ksuu.

Live Stats: Live stats of the weekend's games will be available on the Nevada website at http://www.nevadawolfpack.com.

Video Highlights: Video highlights of the Thunderbirds' home games will be 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. Practices will be held in the Centrum Arena, the Multi-Purpose Center and the Sorensen Physical Education Building until the end of volleyball season, depending upon each team's schedule. Following the conclusion of volleyball season practices will be held in the Centrum Arena.

Media Availability: This week the SUU coaches and players will be available to the media on Wednesday, at 2:45 p.m. in the Centrum arena. Going forward the schedule will be TBA until conference play begins in earnest, at which time players and coaches will be available on Tuesdays prior to practice at 2:45 p.m.

Next Up: SUU has just one game next week. The T-Birds host Carroll College at 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Centrum Arena.

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.

Captains: This year's captains are seniors Jackson Stevenett and Tyson Koehler.

The Coaches: Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 0-1 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 assisted by Jared Barrett (Eastern Oregon, 1996), Todd Okeson (Nevada, 2005) and Drew Allen (Southern Utah, 2010).

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. Green Bay is a member of the Horizon League, CS Fullerton is a member of the Big West Conference and Nevada is in its first season as a member of the Mountain West  Conference.

The Schedule:

Including last week's opener at Gonzaga,  the Thunderbirds will have played eight non-conference games by the time they play their Big Sky opener at home against North Dakota on Dec. 17. Three of those games will be at home, three are true road contests, and two will be neutral court match-ups, including this week's tournament at Nevada.

The home season opens Nov. 21 when the Thunderbirds host Carroll College in the Centrum arena on Thanksgiving Eve. Following that game its back on the road for a game at TCU against one of Coach Robinson's mentors, Trent Johnson, who is in his first season at the helm of the Horned Frog program.

The T-Birds return home to host three straight in the Centrum following the TCU match-up. SUU opens December against San Diego Christian on Dec. 1, hosts San Diego on Dec. 4, then opens conference play against UND on Dec. 17 before hitting the road for its final pre-season non-conference game, at Denver on Dec. 21.

Last Week: Southern Utah opened with a 103-65 setback at No. 21 Gonzaga. The Thunderbirds shot the ball well, converting 27-of-55 shots (49.1 percent) but struggled from 3-point range (4-17, .235) and turned the ball over 28 times against the Bulldogs' pressure defense. Senior wing Jackson Stevenett scored a career- and game-high 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting, and guard Wade Collie added 10 points to lead the Thunderbird scoring. Center Jayson Cheesman scored six points and blocked five shots while Julian Scott hit 4-of-5 shots and finished with nine points. Stevenett pulled down a team-high six rebounds and three players, Cheesman, Scott and Jaren Jeffery each had five boards.

Quick Impact: Center Jayson Cheesman didn't take much time to break into the SUU record books. In his first game as a Thunderbird the junior transfer from Salt Lake Community College blocked five shots, which tied the sixth-highest single-game blocks total in SUU history.

2012-13 Thunderbird Trivia:

  • SUU has nine lettermen, one squad member and one redshirt returning from last season's team that finished 8-10 (14-17 overall) and in sixth place in the Summit League.
  • Five seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen make up the 2012-13 Thunderbird squad.
  • Senior Jackson Stevenett was a second-team all-Summit League honoree last season and he also earned a spot on the five-player Summit League all-tournament team.
  • SUU advanced to the Summit League tournament as the number six seed last year, then upset third-seeded Oakland (84-82) in the tournament's first round before falling to eventual tourney champion South Dakota State (63-47) in the semi-finals.
  • Nick Robinson is the eighth head men's basketball coach in SUU's 50-year history as a four-year institution.
  • Nevada's World Vision Classic will be the fourth in-season tournament for the Thunderbirds in as many years. Last year SUU competed at San Diego State's Basketball Travelers Classic, in 2010 SUU traveled to the Great Alaska Shootout and in 2009 the team was in Hawai'i for the Rainbow Classic.
  • Southern Utah will play 14 home games this season, including 10 Big Sky Conference contests and one in the BracketBusters tournament. The 10 conference match-ups are the most ever in a season for SUU, a far cry from the four the team had in 1993-94 and 1994-95 when it was a member of the five-team American West Conference and there were just four home conference dates. The last several years SUU has played nine conference games per season in the Centrum.
  • In addition to Gonzaga and this week's World Vision Classic, SUU will play non-conference road games at TCU and at Denver this season.
  • SUU and the University of North Dakota are in their first seasons in the Big Sky, making it an 11-team conference. The Thunderbirds had been members of the Summit League (ne. Mid-Continent Conference) for the past 15 seasons before joining the BSC. As members of the 10-team Summit League the Thunderbird men's basketball team qualified for the conference's eight-team post-season tournament 14 of 15 seasons, missing only in 2009-10 when they finished ninth.
  • Seven teams qualify for the Big Sky tournament, which will be hosted by the regular-season champion, March 14-16.
  • SUU is in its 50th season as a four-year institution, its 25th at the NCAA Division I level. Prior to joining the NCAA Division I ranks the University spent two seasons at the Division II level and 23 as a member of the NAIA.

Scouting the Phoenix: Green Bay is coming off a 15-15 season that included a 10-8 mark in Horizon League play, good enough for a sixth-place finish. The Phoenix return four starters among seven lettermen, including C/F Alec Brown (7-1, 226, Jr), who averaged 13.8 points and 8.2 rebounds last year, and guard Keifer Sykes (5-10, 166, So), who averaged 11.2 points and 3.4 assists in 2011-12. Sykes hit 17-of-19 free throws en route to his game-high 31 points in the opener against Chicago State, while C/F Brennan Cougill (6-9, 265, Sr) added 10 points. Brown had just two points but pulled down seven rebounds and blocked a pair of shots, while F Jordan Fouse (6-7, 220, Fr) led the squad with 10 rebounds. Green Bay held CSU to .365 shooting (23-63) but connected on just 31.3 percent (15-48) of its own shots. a 41-for-48 night at the free throw line helped in the win, as CSU went to the line just 15 times, hitting 14 of its attempts. CSU had 19 steals with 30 Phoenix turnovers, while UWGB had 14 steals among 27 Cougar turnovers.

Last Meeting With Green Bay: Sean Allen scored 20 points and Reggie Ingram chipped in 12 but Southern Utah came up short, 65-58, in Green Bay on Jan. 19, 1995. Southern Utah hit 5-of-11 3-pointers and 11-of-25 shots overall in the first half to take a 29-26 lead at the break, but Green Bay was red-hot in the second half, hitting 12-of-19 shots, including 6-of-9 from 3-point territory, and outscoring the Thunderbirds 39-29 in the half to claim the win. Chris Westlake led all scorers with 23 points for the Phoenix, while Jeff Nordgaard chipped in 18.

Scouting the Titans: Cal State Fullerton returns just three lettermen, including two starters, from last season's squad that finished 12-4 and in second place in the Big West and 21-10 overall. Although first-year interim Coach Andy Newman - who played the 1995-96 season at Southern Utah and led the Thunderbirds with 3.7 assists per game - has just three players back, two of them are 2012-13 preseason all-Big West selections: senior guards D.J. Seeley (6-4, 195) and Kwame Vaughn (6-3, 195), who averaged 17.3 and 15.6 points per game, respectively, last season. The third returner is senior center John Underwood (6-9, 230), and that returning core was enough to earn the Titans a second place nod in the BWC preseason polls. Seeley scored 16 points and dished out four assists at Stanford while Vaughn had 12 points and five rebounds vs. the Cardinal. Newcomer Sammy Yeager (F, 6-4, 190, Sr) a transfer from TCU led the Titans with nine rebounds while co-leading the team in scoring with 16, and Jared Brandon came off the bench to hit 4-of-5 shots and 5-of-6 free throws to finish with 13 points. CSF shot .434 (23-53) at Stanford, including .409 (9-22) from 3-point range while the Cardinal connected at a .435 rate (29-64).

Last Meeting With Cal State Fullerton: Marcus Crenshaw came off the bench to score 17 points and Josh Akognon added 16 as Cal State Fullerton handled Southern Utah, 99-63, on Nov. 17, 2007. Crenshaw hit 5-of-9 3-pointers and Akognon 4-of-8 as the Titans shot 50 percent from long range and .552 overall. SUU shot 50 percent in the first half but dipped to .357 in the second when the Thunderbirds hit just 10-of-28 shots. CSUF pulled away late in the first half, outscoring Southern Utah 23-6 over the final 7:38 of the period to overcome a 24-21 deficit and take a 44-30 advantage into halftime. Akognon scored 14 points during the run, hitting 4-of-4 3-point attempts and a layup as the Titans pulled away. Geoff Payne led the Thunderbirds in scoring for the ninth time in 11 games, with 18 points, and pulled down a team-high six rebounds while Nurudeen Adepoju added 11 points.

Scouting the Wolf Pack: Nevada is coming off a 28-7 season in which it was the WAC regular-season champion with a record of 13-1. The Wolf Pack returns 10 lettermen, including three starters, from the squad that advanced to the third round of the National Invitational Tournament before falling at Stanford in the third round. Junior guard Deonte Burton was named to the media's preseason all-Mountain West Conference team after averaging 14.8 points and 4.6 assists per game last year. The other returning starters are senior Malik Story (6-5, 225), who averaged 14.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 2011-12, and junior Jerry Evans, Jr. (6-8, 188) who scored at a 6.7 ppg clip while pulling down 4.7 boards per game. Story paced Nevada in the season-opener at UC Irvine last week, scoring 21 points and pulling down five rebounds in 28 minutes, while sophomore forward Kevin Panzer (6-9, 205) led the team with nine rebounds. Burton and Evans each finished with eight points.

Last Meeting With Nevada: William Allen's 17 points led four Thunderbirds in double figures but Nevada held off Southern Utah's second half comeback to claim a 74-73 win on Jan. 29, 1990. Pete Johnson added 16, Davor Marcelic had 11 and Wade Wyatt finished with 10 points for the Thunderbirds, who found themselves down by 17 early before cutting it to 38-30 at halftime. SUU rallied all the way back, taking a 73-72 lead on a Wyatt free throw with 2:18 to go, but Nevada's Ric Herrin hit two free throws with 0:32 to play to give the Wolf Pack the win. Herrin finished with a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds while Gary Husky had 22 points for Nevada.