Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Jan. 31 – Damon Heuir and Jackson Stevenett combined to score 48 points to lead Southern Utah past visiting Sacramento State by a final score of 77-67 in Big Sky play Thursday night. The win moves the Thunderbirds ahead of the Hornets and into a third place tie in the Big Sky standings as they improve 6-5 in conference play and 8-12 overall while dropping Sac State to marks of 5-6 and 10-9 on the year.
“We had a great effort in the second half,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “Unfortunately we didn’t do enough in the first. I’m hopeful that we can put together two halves going forward.”
Stevenett started the game with a three from the corner and the two sides traded baskets in the early going until a tip-in by Cal Hanks put SUU up 9-8 five minutes in. The Hornets came back with four straight points to take the lead, but a trip to the foul line for Heuir and a jumper from Wade Collie leveled the score at 13-13.
The next eight minutes saw Sac State outscore the Thunderbirds 18-6 to pull ahead 32-19. Senior forward John Dickson connected from three to start the run and Dylan Garrity added two more shots from the outside to help the Hornets go up by 13 with 4:38 remaining in the first half.
SUU battled back with scores from Heuir and Stevenett in the closing minutes of the period, but Sacramento State got three free throws from Mikh McKinney to take a 39-26 advantage into the locker room.
McKinney led all scorers with 11 points at the break, while Heuir paced SUU with nine. The Thunderbirds outrebounded the visitors 19-13 in the early going but converted just 9-24 field goal attempts while the Hornets shot 50 percent from three and 44.4 percent overall.
Heuir kept up the scoring for Southern Utah early in the second, as he put up six points in the first three minutes to narrow the margin to seven at 41-34. A jumper from Stevenett and a three-point play by Cal Hanks then brought SUU within a single basket as it opened the period on a 13-2 run.
Sacramento State was able to stretch its advantage back to six on a score by Dickson, but the Thunderbirds answered with seven-straight including a driving layup by Jordan Johnson that put them back in front 48-47.
Stevenett added a three and then turned in a fast break bucket off an assist from Heuir to give Southern Utah a 56-50 lead with just over seven minutes remaining. The two backcourt players continued drive the Thunderbird offense as they combined to score 11 consecutive points for their team, pushing the margin to 65-56 with less than four minutes remaining.
The SUU lead grew to as many as 13 points down the stretch and the Thunderbirds had an answer for every Hornet run as they eventually came away with the 75-65 win.
The Thunderbird defense clamped down in the second half, holding Sac State to just four field goals on 23 attempts, dropping their shooting percentage to 34.8 percent on the night. SUU got things going on offense as it shot 42.9 percent from the outside and to close out the game and finished shooting 48 percent from the floor. It also controlled the glass in the contest, outrebounding the visitors 38-26.
“We made some adjustments at the half and our guys really responded,” explained Robinson. “We increased our defensive pressure with a man defense and it helped to set up our transition game.”
Heuir finished with a game-high 28 points while also pulling down seven rebounds and handing out seven assists. Stevenett added another 20 for the Thunderbirds and Hanks posted career highs with 11 points and seven rebounds. Garrity led the way for the Hornet with 17, who got another 17 from McKinney.
Southern Utah will look to finish its current homestand 4-0 when it hosts Northern Arizona this Saturday at 7 p.m. Coverage of the game is available at www.suutbirds.com.
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Big Sky Tournament
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Thu. Mar. 6
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(W) 77 -71
Sat. Mar. 1
(L) 54 -82
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@ Montana State
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Sat. Nov. 8
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Fri. Nov. 14
@ Kansas State
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vs. Eastern Kentucky
Sun. Nov. 30
Sat. Dec. 6
vs. St. Katherine's
Sun. Dec. 14
@ Boise State