Southern Utah's men's basketball team plays the second game in its four-game homestand Saturday night when the Thunderbirds host Eastern Washington in the annual Hall of Fame game. The coaches will also participate in the 10th Annual Suits and Sneakers Weekend, wearing sneakers in support of Coaches Versus Cancer on Saturday night.
The Thunderbirds (6-12/4-5 Big Sky) will be looking to build some momentum after snapping a five-game skid with a 76-63 home win over Portland State on Thursday night. The win moved the Thunderbirds into a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big Sky, along with Sacramento State, North Dakota and Northern Arizona. The Thunderbirds are now 3-2 at home in BSC play, with wins over Portland State, North Dakota (79-67) and Northern Colorado (51-50) and losses to Weber State (81-74) and Idaho State (54-53).
Eastern Washington (4-14/2-6 Big Sky), which is still looking for its first road win of the season, has lost three straight since posting an 82-59 home win over Northern Arizona on Jan. 10. The Eagles, who are playing their third straight road game, have been off since a 72-56 loss at Northern Colorado last Saturday. EWU began the skid with a 60-53 home loss to Sacramento State, then lost at North Dakota (65-57) and at UNC. Both of the Eagles conference wins have come at home, over NAU and Idaho State (57-54).
SUU will be honoring four former athletes during halftime of the game. The four, golfer Stuart Adams, women's basketball players Cherri Frandsen and Myndee Larsen, and football player Rick Robins will be inducted in ceremonies Saturday afternoon, then honored at the game. A fifth athlete, men's basketball player Davor Marcelic, was originally going to be honored as well, but he will not be able to attend and will be honored at the 2014 Hall of Fame Game.
Suits and Sneakers weekend is an annual event coordinated by the Coaches vs. Cancer program, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Wearing sneakers is a simple way to spotlight the fact that cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States-- exceeded only by heart disease, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths-- and remind people about all the ways they can reduce their risk of cancer; like eating right, exercising, making healthy lifestyle choices and following the Society's recommended cancer screening guidelines.
This year, Coaches vs. Cancer is giving fans a chance to get in on the action and support the fight against cancer. Fans who donate $5 to Coaches vs. Cancer by texting the word "Coach" to 20222 any time between January 21 and April 9 will be entered for a chance to win one of several exclusive prizes. More information is available at the NABC website at www.nabc.org.
The Game: Eastern Washington (4-14/2-6) at Southern Utah (6-12/4-5), Saturday at 7:05 p.m. (MST) in the Centrum Arena.
The Series: Southern Utah holds a 3-1 edge in the series with the Eagles, including a 2-0 mark in Cedar City. The Thunderbirds came out on top of the first three meetings, but Eastern claimed a 69-65 win in Cheney, Wash., the last time the teams met, on Jan. 10, 1994. The Thunderbirds swept two games during the 1992-93 season, taking a 70-68 home win then an 87-67 win in Cheney, then made it three straight with a 71-50 win in December of 1993 before the Eagle win in Cheney.
TV: There will be no live television for Saturday's game.
Radio: All of Southern Utah men's basketball games are broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM) as well as on the internet at www.power91radio.com. Art Challis is in his 40th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis - who also serves as the chair of SUU's Department of Communication - is joined on home and selected road broadcasts by former SUU standout and current SUU VP for University Relations Dean O'Driscoll.
On The Internet: Video web-streaming coverage of all of Southern Utah's home games and Big Sky road games is available on Big Sky TV, at www.bigskytv.org. Audio of all SUU games is available by logging on to the Thunderbird website at www.suutbirds.com or at www.power91radio.com.
Live Stats: Live stats of Southern Utah's home games are available on the SUU website at www.suutbirds.com. Real-time live stats of SUU's home games are available to working media, contact the athletic media relations office for access information.
Video Highlights: Video highlights of the Thunderbirds' home games is 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. in the Centrum Arena.
Media Availability: Players and coaches will be available Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. unless travel schedules dictate otherwise. On weeks when the team is traveling on Tuesday the interviews will be held on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
Next Up: Following Saturday's game the Thunderbirds begin the second half of the Big Sky round-robin, hosting Sacramento State (Jan. 31) and Northern Arizona (Feb. 2) before heading back out on the road for a game Feb. 7, at Idaho State.
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.
Heuir Named BSC Player of the Week: SUU's Damon Heuir was named Big Sky Co-Player of the Week, along with Weber State's Scott Bamforth, for his performance the week of Jan. 5. Heuir scored a Big Sky season-high 30 points to lead SUU to its first road win of the season, a 90-77 victory at Northern Arizona. Heuir started a 22-2 first-half run with a 3-pointer and he buried two more threes during the stretch that lifted SUU from a 9-7 deficit to a 29-11 lead. He went on to score 20 of his points in the second half, including a 3-pointer for the first basket of the period to lift SUU to a 45-30 lead and 5-of-6 free throws in the final 1:04 to keep the Lumberjacks at bay. He hit 6-of-11 shots, 4-of-6 3-pointers and 14-of-16 free throws in the game. The 14 made free throws are also the most in the Big Sky this season. In addition to his scoring, he pulled down four rebounds, dished out two assists, picked off two steals and blocked a shot.
The Coaches: Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 6-12 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. This is the first time Robinson has coached against Eastern Washington.
Robinson is assisted by Jared Barrett (Eastern Oregon, 1996), Todd Okeson (Nevada, 2005) and Drew Allen (Southern Utah, 2010).
Jim Hayford (Azusa Pacific, 1990) is 17-25 in his second season at Eastern Washington and 271-109 in his 14th season overall as a head coach. Prior to taking over at EWU, Coach Hayford spent two seasons at University of Sioux Falls and 10 at Whitworth, where he led his team to six NCAA Division III tournament appearances. Coach Hayford is 0-0 vs. SUU.
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. Eastern Washington is also a member of the Big Sky.
The Schedule: The Thunderbirds have played nine non-conference games, three at home, four true road contests, and two neutral court match-ups. They have played four conference games at home and two on the road. SUU opened at #21 Gonzaga, then played three games in three days at the World Vision Classic, meeting Green Bay, Cal State Fullerton and host Nevada before opening its home schedule against Carroll College. SUU also played non-conference games at TCU, at Denver, and at home against San Diego Christian and San Diego. SUU has just one non-conference game remaining, a BracketBuster match-up at home on Feb. 23.
Last Time Out: Jayson Cheesman notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds while Jackson Stevenett scored 21 points and Damon Heuir added 19 and six assists as the Thunderbirds broke a five-game skid with a 76-63 win over Portland State on Thursday night. SUU jumped out to a 12-2 lead and never trailed, but the Vikings continued to rally throughout the game. SUU tied its season-low with 11 turnovers, combined for 13 assists and six blocks and out-rebounded PSU 33-32 in moving to 4-5 and into a tie for fourth place in the Big Sky standings. Jordan Johnson started his third straight game and gave the Thunderbirds a lift from the outset, getting steals on the Vikings' first two possessions of the game and a rebound on their third, then scoring four straight points to lift SUU to an 8-2 advantage. SUU went on to build a 13-point first half lead and was up 36-27 at the break. The Thunderbirds built the lead to 52-35 midway through the second half but PSU responded with a 9-1 run and eventually got back within 55-47 before SUU pulled away again down the stretch. Cal Hanks added a career-high nine points and blocked two shots.
T-Birds In The National Ranks: The Thunderbirds have two players ranked in the top-100 in the NCAA through Thursday's games, while the team ranks among the top 100 in three categories. Jayson Cheesman ranks 40th in the nation in blocks per game with an average of 2.28, while Jackson Stevenett is 57th in free throw percentage at .855. As a team the Thunderbirds are 24th in the country with 5.3 blocks per game, 69th in rebounding margin (plus 4.4) and 71st in free throw percentage (.724).
T-Birds In The Big Sky:
(As of Thursday) Cheesman leads the Big Sky in blocks per game with 2.4 when all games are considered and Stevenett is second in the league in scoring at 15.9 points per game while Damon Heuir is third in scoring at 15.3 ppg. Stevenett is also fourth in free throw percentage at .861 and is tied for seventh in rebounding with 6.1 per game, while Cheesman ranks 10th in rebounding with 6.0 rpg. Wade Collie is sixth in 3-point percentage at .455 and Cal Hanks is ninth in blocks per game with 1.1. The team is second in the conference in blocks with 5.2 per game, in rebounding margin (+4.6), in defensive rebounds (26.2 drpg) and in offensive rebounds (11.7 orpg).
When only conference games are considered Stevenett is second in the Big Sky with 18.6 points per game and Heuir is fourth at 16.6. Heuir is third in 3-pointers per game (2.7) and fifth in free throw percentage (.867) while Stevenett is sixth in free throw percentage at .842. Cheesman is seventh and Stevenett is eighth in rebounding with 6.9 and 6.8 caroms per game, respectively, with Stevenett seventh in offensive rebounds (2.3 orpg) and 10th in defensive boards (4.5) while Cheesman is sixth in defensive rebounds (5.0). Cheesman is also third in blocks per game (2.1), Cal Hanks is tied for seventh in blocks (1.3) and Collie is tied for sixth in 3-point percentage (.500). The team leads the league in offensive rebounds (12.4 pg), is second in 3-point defense (.300), defensive rebounds (26.4 per game), field goal percentage defense (.392), and free throw percentage (.764), and third in scoring margin (-0.1), blocked shots per game (5.5) and rebounding margin (+3.1).
Moving Up The Ranks:
Jackson Stevenett has 1,021 points in his three-plus seasons as a Thunderbird. He is currently 11th on SUU's career scoring list and needs 56 to tie Russell Otis (1984-86) in 10th place. He also has 419 career rebounds, which ranks 16th on the SUU career list. He needs three to tie Kerry Rupp (422, 1974-77) in 15th place and 44 to move into the top-10, where Davor Marcelic is 10th with 463.
Jayson Cheesman has 41 blocked shots this season, which ranks fifth on SUU's single-season list and ninth on the career list. He needs seven to tie Kenyatta Clyde in fourth place and 23 to tie Matt Hodgson (2009-10) atop the single-season list. He needs four to move into a tie with Richard Barton (1986-87, 1990-93) in eighth place and five to tie Fred House (1998-2001 in seventh on the career list.
Cleaning The Glass:
- The Thunderbirds have won the battle of the boards 13 times this season. They were out-rebounded in their first three games of the season then won the battle of the boards in nine straight contests before Sacramento State had a 41-38 edge on the boards and Weber State held a 46-41 advantage. SUU got back on the glass vs. Idaho State, however, and has out-rebounded every subsequent opponent. They out-boarded the Bengals 43-34, edged Montana 30-28, had a 37-33 advantage over Montana State and slipped past Portland State 33-32.
- SUU has reeled in 40 or more caroms eight times this season. Last year's team had a total of four 40-rebound games.
- SUU pulled down a season-high 51 rebounds vs. San Diego Christian. The team's high mark vs. a Division I foe was 45, against Northern Colorado.
- SUU averages 5.278 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Big Sky (behind Eastern Washington's 5.3). The Thunderbirds have rejected 95 shots this season, including 12 against North Dakota, SUU's highest total since the team combined for 13 rejections against Panhandle State on Dec. 14, 2010 and the highest total in the Big Sky so far this season. The Thunderbirds were in double-digits against San Diego as well, when they blocked 10 shots.
- 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. With 40 total blocks this season Cheesman is all alone in fifth place on the SUU single-season list.
- Cal Hanks tied Cheesman in sixth place on that single-game list when he came off the bench to block five shots against North Dakota. Hanks had three last week to give him 18 blocks on the season.
- SUU blocked six shots vs. Portland state, giving the team five or more blocks in a game 12 times this season.
- The Thunderbirds hit 15-of-25 shots in the second half against Portland State, 60.0 percent, it was their second-best second half of the season (behind .630 vs. San Diego Christian) and their third-best half overall (.625 in the first half at Northern Arizona) this season.
- SUU tied its season-low with 11 turnovers vs. PSU and had the fewest turnovers (the Vikings had 14) for just the third time this season.
- Jackson Stevenett scored 19 points at Montana to give him exactly 1,000 for his career. He is just the 11th player in SUU history to break the 1,000 point mark and just the third to cross that threshold since 1993. Jeff Monaco finished his career in 2001 with 1,568 points (second on SUU's all-time list) while Davis Baker finished his in 2010 with 1,205 (sixth on SUU's all-time list).
- Montana hit just two 3-pointers and attempted just seven, opponent season-lows for SUU. The Grizzlies also went without a blocked shot, marking the only time this season an opponent didn't reject at least one T-Bird try.
- Julian Scott, who missed five games with a foot injury, then played in the NAU, Sac State, Weber State and Idaho State games, was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in practice January 18.
- The Thunderbirds had just four players foul out of the nine non-conference games (including two at TCU) but have had 12 disqualifications in the seven Big Sky contests so far, including two at both Northern Arizona and Sac State and three against Weber State and at Montana.
- SUU was the first team to win its first three Big Sky Conference games in its first season of play since Boise State started out 4-0 back in 1970-71.
- SUU shot .568 from the floor and .538 from 3-point range at NAU - both season-high percentages - and knocked down 78.6 percent of its free throws, including 10-of-12 in the final 1:08 to clinch the win.
- Stevenett has scored a career-high 29 points twice this season, at Gonzaga and again vs. Weber State. Stevenett's 29 points at Gonzaga was tied as the highest single-game point total in the Big Sky this season until Heuir scored 30 at NAU. Stevenett's 11 field goals made against the Zags is the highest total in the conference so far this season, while his 11-of-15 shooting night (.733) ranks second-best in the Sky, behind Northern Colorado's Connor Osborne, who hit 8-of-9 shots against University of the Southwest.
- Stevenett and Heuir are the only two players to lead the Thunderbirds in scoring this season. Heuir has led the 'Birds in nine games and Stevenett has paced the team eight times.
- Northern Arizona hit just 3-of-17 3-pointers against the Thunderbirds, 17.6 percent. It was the lowest percentage and tied for the second-fewest long-range baskets by the Lumberjacks this season.
- SUU had a season-high six players score in double figures against San Diego Christian. Stevenett led the way with 15, while Damon Heuir and Wade Collie each finished with 13. Jayson Cheesman finished with 12 points and both Jaren Jeffery and Jordan Johnson had 10. For Cheesman and Johnson the totals were career-highs while Collie's 13 were a season-high. Johnson was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor while Collie was 5-of-6 and Hanks, who finished with a then-career-high seven points, was 3-for-3 from the field as SUU finished with a season-best 55.9 field goal percentage.
- SUU combined for a season-high 18 assists vs. SDCC. Freshman A.J. Hess came off the bench to lead the squad with a career-high five dimes vs. the Hawks, while Collie had four and all but two Thunderbirds who saw action dished out at least one.
- 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.
- 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 was 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.
- 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 (nee. 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 the T-Birds 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.