Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Jan. 24 – Southern Utah shot over 50 percent from the floor to take a 76-63 win over visiting Portland State on Thursday night. The victory snaps a five-game skid for SUU who improves to 4-5 in Big Sky play and 6-12 on the season. The Vikings drop their third straight to fall to 3-6 in conference play and 5-11 overall.
The Thunderbirds struck first in the game as Jordan Johnson hustled for a steal and got the ball to Damon Heuir for a transition bucket. SUU kept up the defensive pressure as Johnson went on to grab three steals in the first four minutes to help the team jump out to a 12-2 lead.
“Jordan came ready to play from the start tonight,” commented SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “Our guys were talking on defense, they were communicating and helping each other out. That allowed Jordan to get a couple of early deflections and he maintained that intensity throughout the game.”
A few minutes later it the Thunderbird defense set up another score as a big block by Johnson led to a Jayson Cheesman earning a trip to the foul line in transition where he would hit both shots to make the score 22-10. Senior forward Jackson Stevenett provided the offense to close out the half, dropping in five points in less than two minutes, and SUU took a 36-27 advantage into the break.
In total the T-Birds blocked four shots and forced eight turnovers in the half. Southern Utah outshot the Portland State by a margin of 42.9 to 35.0 percent to start the game and held an 18-15 advantage on the glass.
The two sides traded scores early in the second period until an 8-0 from Southern Utah run extended its lead to 52-35. A couple of fast break lay-ins for Jaren Jeffrey and Stevenett started the streak and Heuir finished it off with a score to put the T-Birds up by 17 with 11:41 left to play.
Portland State began to chip away at the deficit as Lateef McMullan and Gary Winston both connected from behind the arc, but Heuir came back with a three for the Thunderbirds to push the advantage to 58-47 with seven minutes remaining.
SUU continued to pull away in the closing minutes and a pair of free throws for Heuir pushed the margin back to 17 with 1:23 on the clock. The Thunderbirds would eventually go on to win by a final score of 76-63.
Stevenett scored 21 points on 9-13 shooting to lead Southern Utah which got another 19 from Heuir, who also recorded six assists. Cheesman turned in his first double-double for the T-Birds with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The team shot the ball over 50 percent in the game and doubled up its opponent scoring in the paint at 36-18. SUU matched its season best with 11 turnovers and edged PSU on the boards 33-32.
“Both Jayson and Cal did a good job defensively and were efficient at both ends of the floor,” explained Robinson. “For us to finish plays in the post, in transition is important.”
Junior forward Aaron Moore led the Vikings with 19 points and nine rebounds. McMullan turned in another 14 for Portland State and handed out six assists in the loss.
The Thunderbirds continue their four-game homestand this Saturday when Eastern Washington comes to town. SUU will tip things off against the Eagles in the Centrum Arena at 7:00 p.m.
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