Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Jan. 12 – After starting 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play, Southern Utah (5-10) dropped its third-straight to fall to 3-3 after a loss to visiting Idaho State (3-11, 2-3 BSC) and former SUU coach Bill Evans on Saturday. The Thunderbirds and Bengals went back-and-forth all game, but the visitors held on in the final seconds to escape with a 54-53 win.
“Give credit to Idaho State, they were more mentally tough than we were tonight,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “The game was tied 14 times and they battled back every time.”
Points were tough to come by on both sides in the early going and a layup for Idaho State’s Melvin Morgan and a tip-in from Jaren Jeffery had the game scored tied at 2-2 after four minutes of play.
The SUU offense got going behind a couple of three-point shots from Jordan Johnson and Damon Heuir as the T-Birds went up 10-7 halfway through the period. A few minutes later another outside shot from Heuir stretched the margin to 17-11.
The Bengals worked to cut away at the lead, but inside scores from Jayson Cheesman and Julian Scott pushed the advantage to 26-17 with three minutes remaining in the first half.
Tomas Sanchez answered with two-straight threes and Chris Hansen another basket from the outside to help ISU come back to tie the score at 26-26. SUU retook the lead after Jackson Stevenett hit a pull-up jumper just before the horn to give the Thunderbirds a 28-26 edge at the break.
Sanchez led all scorers with 12 points in the opening half, nine of which came from the three-point line. Cheesman led Southern Utah with eight points on 4-8 shooting during the first 20 minutes. The Thunderbirds held a 24-17 rebounding advantage to start the game and outshot the Bengals 35.3 percent to 34.8 percent.
Idaho State opened the second half on a quick 11-2 run to take a 37-30 lead on a layup from Andre Hatchett. SUU battled back with a 12-2 rally that ended with Stevenett throwing down a two-handed slam to even the score and Heuir sinking a corner three to put the Thunderbirds back in front 42-39.
The two sides traded scores down the stretch until a Jordan Johnson layup brought the game back to a 49-49 stalemate with 4:29 left on the clock. The Bengals eventually went back up by one, but a deep three from Stevenett gave Southern Utah a 53-51 lead with just over two minutes to play.
ISU took possession of the ball with a 54-53 advantage and 43 seconds remaining. Melvin Morgan made a drive to the hoop as the clock wound down to 14 seconds, but Stevenett got up in the air to deflect the shot off a Bengal player to give the ball back to SUU.
Southern Utah’s Wade Collie took the inbounds pass at the wing and dribbled inside the three-point line for an 18-foot jumper. The shot was off but the ball went out of bounds and back to the T-Birds with 3.5 seconds left. Collie received the ball again and quickly shot a pass to Heuir who fired a corner three that bounced off the back edge of the rim as the horn sounded, sealing the 54-53 win for the Bengals.
Sanchez finished with 18 to lead ISU, which got another 17 from sophomore guard Chris Hansen. The Thunderbirds got 17 from Heuir and another 12 from Stevenett, but the two combined to shoot only 8-30 from the field.
Southern Utah shot the ball 32.1 percent as a team, just behind the Bengals who recorded a mark of 34.0 percent. SUU outrebounded its opponent by a count of 43-34 but also sent the visitors to the foul line 27 times.
“We were aggressive, we got into the paint,” explained Robinson. “We just aren’t finishing as much as we would like.”
The Thunderbirds take to the road in Big Sky play next week with visits to Montana and Montana State. The T-Birds will meet up with the Grizzlies on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. and then travel across the state for a matchup with the Bobcats the following Monday in another game set to begin at 7:00.
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
Sat. Feb. 15
vs. Idaho State
(L) 65 -75
Sat. Mar. 8
vs. Northern Colorado
Thu. Mar. 13
Big Sky Tournament