Southern Utah's men's basketball team plays the third game of its current four-game road stretch Thursday night when the Thunderbirds take on Portland State in Portland, Ore.
The Thunderbirds (10-13/8-6 Big Sky) saw their longest winning streak in 11 years, five in a row, snapped at Weber State on Saturday night, 75-58. SUU had reeled off four straight home wins, over PSU (76-63), Eastern Washington (69-55), Sacramento State (79-67) and Northern Arizona (78-67), as well as an 81-79 overtime win at Idaho State before the loss to the Wildcats.
Even with the loss SUU remains in third place in the Big Sky, one game ahead of Montana State, North Dakota and Sacramento State.
Portland State (5-16/3-11 Big Sky) has been on an eight-game slide since sweeping Sac State and Northern Arizona early in January. The Vikings were 3-2 in The Sky heading into a Jan. 17 game at Northern Colorado, the first game in a four-game road swing, but the Bears handled them 67-50 to begin the slide. It has been a brutal stretch, however, as just two of the eight losses came at home, to league-leading Montana (81-68) and Montana State (70-64). Last week PSU traveled to NAU and Sac State, where they lost 79-72 and 77-71. Also included in the streak was a 76-63 setback at SUU on Jan. 24.
The Game: Southern Utah (10-13/8-6) at Portland State (5-16/3-11), 7:35 p.m. in the Stott Center (1,500) Portland, Ore.
The Series: Although the two teams were both members of the Western Football Conference in the late 1980s and early 1990s and met on the gridiron on a yearly basis, this will be just the third meeting between the two schools in men's basketball, the second at the NCAA Division I level. Each team has come away with one win. The first meeting between SUU and PSU on the hardwood came early in the 1969-70 season when the Vikings took a 107-93 win over the then-NAIA Thunderbirds in Portland. SUU evened the series earlier this season with a 76-63 win in Cedar City.
TV: There will be no live television coverage of Thursday's game.
Radio: All of Southern Utah men's basketball games are broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM). Art Challis is in his 40th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis - 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.
Thunderbirds To Host Northridge In BracketBuster: SUU will host Cal State Northridge in the BracketBuster tournament at 7:35 p.m. on Feb. 23. The Matadors and Thunderbirds competed against each other in the American West Conference (along with current Big Sky member Sacramento State) during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
Coming Up: The Thunderbirds travel to Eastern Washington where they wrap up the four-game road swing on Saturday night. Next week SUU hosts Cal State Northridge in the Ramada BracketBuster game, Feb. 23.
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.
Heuir Named BSC Player of the Week: SUU's Damon Heuir earned his second Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award on Monday following his play in the Thunderbirds' wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona last week. Heuir averaged 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in the two wins. He scored 28 points with seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal in the team's 79-67 win over Sacramento State, then scored 27 points with four rebounds, an assist and a steal two nights later against the Lumberjacks. Heuir's first BSC Player of the Week award came after he scored 30 points to lead SUU to its first road win of the season, a 90-77 victory at Northern Arizona on Jan. 5. That week he shared the honors with Weber State's Scott Bamforth.
Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 8-13 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 1-0 vs. PSU.
Portland State is coached by Tyler Geving (Central Washington, 1996), who is 49-66 in his fourth season at the helm of the Viking program. Coach Geving is 0-1 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. Portland State 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, next week's BracketBuster match-up against CS Northridge.
Last Time Out: Jackson Stevenett scored 24 points and Damon Heuir added 18 but Southern Utah had its worst shooting night of the year Saturday night as Weber State topped SUU 75-58 to put an end to SUU's five-game winning streak, the team's longest in 11 years. SUU hit just 16-of-55 shots or 29.1 percent. The team's lowest percentage prior to Saturday night was .321 at home vs. Idaho State on Jan. 12. After taking an eight point lead into halftime Weber put the game out of range with a 12-2 run that gave the Wildcats a 58-38 advantage. SUU finally got back on the scoreboard when Cal Hanks hit one of two free throws to make it a 58-39 game with 8:44 to play. SUU could get no closer than 17 the rest of the way, however. Weber State out-rebounded the Thunderbirds, 39-33, marking just the sixth time this season SUU has lost the battle of the boards. Jayson Cheesman blocked five shots, tying the sixth-highest single-game total in SUU history (which he already tied once this season) and giving him 53 for the season, tying him with Sean Allen (1993-94) for third-place on SUU's single-season blocks list. Stevenett moved into eighth place on SUU's career scoring list with 1,118 points, passing Gary Crosby, who had 1,101 points from 1973 to 1975 and he tied Marc Wilson (1977-79) in 11th place on SUU's career rebounding list with 452. SUU had 10 turnovers to 15 for WSU; it was just the second time the T-Birds had lost this season when turning it over less than the opponent.
T-Birds In The National Ranks: The Thunderbirds have three players ranked in the top-100 in the NCAA through Thursday's games, and the team ranks among the top 100 in three categories as well. Jackson Stevenett ranks 32nd in free throw percentage (.868) and 84th in scoring (17.0 ppg) while Jayson Cheesman ranks 36th in blocks per game with an average of 2.3 and Damon Heuir is 91st in scoring at 16.9 ppg. As a team the Thunderbirds are 23rd in the country with 5.2 blocks per game, 49th in rebounding margin (plus 5.0) and 51st in free throw percentage (.732).
T-Birds In The Big Sky:
Stevenett and Heuir are 2-3 in scoring in the conference when all games are considered. Stevenett averages 17.0 points per game while Heuir checks in at 16.9 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage at .875, sixth in rebounding with 6.09 per game, seventh in offensive rebounds per game (2.0) and 11th in defensive rebounds per game (4.0). Heuir is also fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.1) and ninth in free throw percentage (.791), while Cheesman is second in blocks per game with 2.3 when all games are considered, seventh in rebounding with 6.086 rpg and seventh in defensive rebounds with 4.4 per game. Cal Hanks is seventh in blocks per game with 1.1. The team leads the conference in offensive rebounds (12.1 rpg), and is second in field goal percentage defense (.424), in blocks (5.2 per game), in rebounding margin (plus-5.0) and in defensive rebounds (26.0 drpg).
When only conference games are considered, Stevenett is second and Heuir is fourth in the Big Sky with 19.1 and 18.5 points per game respectively. Heuir is fourth in 3-pointers per game (2.4) and tied for fifth in free throw percentage (.833) while Stevenett is fourth in free throw percentage at .863. Cheesman is sixth and Stevenett is ninth in rebounding with 6.6 and 6.4 caroms per game, respectively, with Stevenett fifth in offensive rebounds (2.3 rpg) and Cheesman seventh in defensive rebounds (4.9). Cheesman is also third in blocks per game (2.1) and Hanks is eighth in blocks (1.1). Stevenett also ranks ninth in field goal percentage (.513). The team leads the league in offensive rebounds (12.7 pg), is second in field goal percentage defense (.394), defensive rebounds (26.0 per game) and rebounding margin (plus-4.3), and is third in scoring average (70.1 ppg), scoring margin (plus-2.4 ppg), blocked shots per game (5.4) and 3-point defense (.322).
Moving Up The Ranks:
Jackson Stevenett is in position to become only the third T-Bird to rank in the career top-10 in both scoring and rebounding. Stevenett has 1,118 points in his three-plus seasons as a Thunderbird. With his 22 points at Idaho State he moved from 11th to ninth on SUU's career scoring list, and his 24 on Saturday bumped him up a notch to eighth. Last week he moved past Russell Otis (1,077 from 1984-86), Ted Thomas (1087, 1986-89) and Gary Crosby (1,101, 1969-70 and 1973-75). He also has 452 career rebounds, which is tied for 11th all time at SUU. Last week he passed Robin Haight (450, 1972-1976), to move into a tie with Marc Wilson (1977-79) with 452. He needs 11 boards to move into the SUU career top-10, where Davor Marcelic (1988-92) is 10th with 463. Richard Barton is second on SUU's career scoring list with 1,419 points and is fourth on its rebounding list with 557 while Robert "Dunn" Lee is second in rebounding with 652 boards and fifth in scoring with 652 points. Barton played in 1986-87 then returned to the team after an LDS church mission to lay the 1990-93 seasons while Lee played from 1974 to 1977.
Jayson Cheesman has 53 rejections this season, which is tied for third on SUU's single-season list and is seventh on the career list. He is tied with Sean Allen (1993-94) on the single-season list. He needs seven to tie Allen's 60 in 1994-95 for second place and 11 to tie Matt Hodgson (2009-10) atop the single-season list. Next up on the career chart is Donnie Jackson, who rejected 55 shots from 2001 to 2003.
Cleaning The Glass:
- The Thunderbirds have won the battle of the boards 17 times this season but two of the times they were out-rebounded were against Weber State. SUU was out-rebounded in their first three games then won the battle of the boards in nine straight contests before Sacramento State had a 41-38 edge in the first meeting between the two teams and Weber State held a 46-41 advantage in the first meeting. SUU out-rebounded each subsequent opponent, a stretch of eight games, before Weber State pulled in 39 caroms to 33 for the 'Birds.
- SUU has reeled in 40 or more caroms 11 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 5.2 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Big Sky. The Thunderbirds have rejected 120 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 has had two five-block and one four-block games this season, with both five-block efforts coming on the road. Cheesman didn't take much time to break into the SUU record books. In his first game as a Thunderbird, at Gonzaga, he blocked five shots, which tied the sixth-highest single-game blocks total in SUU history. He swatted five more at Weber State last week. The four-block effort came at home against San Diego Christian.
- 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 has 25 blocks so far and needs eight to move into SUU's single-season top-10.
- With Cheesman's five blocks at Weber State SUU has five or more blocks in a game 15 times this season.
- SUU had four blocks against Eastern Washington, three by Cheesman, but the Eagles had seven, with three players swatting a pair of shots. It was just the second time this season - Green Bay was the other - that the Thunderbirds had more shots blocked than they blocked themselves.
- The good news is the Thunderbirds had a season-low 10 turnovers at Weber State, unfortunately they also shot a season-low 29.1 percent. Jackson Stevenett hit 5-of-12 shots, 42 percent, no other T-Bird was better than .333. The team also had just six assists vs. the Wildcats, its second-fewest in 2012-13.
- Wade Collie played seven minutes at Weber State after missing the Idaho State game and playing just two minutes at home against Northern Arizona. Collie has been sidelined by a thigh injury suffered in practice the day before the NAU game.
- Damon Heuir tied his career-high with eight assists at Idaho State, then went without a dime at Weber State. The WSU game was just his third without an assist this year.
- SUU's 81-79 win at Idaho State was the team's first overtime game this season and thus Coach Nick Robinson's first win in overtime. Both of the Thunderbird/Bengal games went down to the wire, with ISU winning 54-53 in Cedar City before SUU took the win in Pocatello.
- A.J. Hess scored a career-best 12 points at ISU, including a big 3-pointer down the stretch in regulation and two free throws with four seconds to play in overtime to clinch the win.
- Chris Nsenki tied his career-high with 10 points at ISU, including a perfect 3-for-3 night from 3-point range.
- Northern Arizona is probably happy to see the last of Heuir. The senior guard scored 30 points in the first match-up between SUU and NAU - the highest total in the Big Sky until NAU's Gabe Rogers poured in 35 vs. North Dakota on Jan. 26 - and he poured in another 27 last Saturday. In his two games against the Lumberjacks, Heuir hit 15-of-30 shots, 7-of-12 3-pointers and hit 20-of-24 free throws. He also averaged four rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals and blocked a shot against NAU.
- Heuir has scored in double figures in 12 straight games, with 14 or more points in each game and four 20-point-plus efforts. Jackson Stevenett has posted double-figures in 17 straight, including seven during the streak of 20 or more. Until Wade Collie came off the bench to score a team-high 18 against Eastern Washington either Heuir or Stevenett had led the team in every game this year. Heuir and Stevenett have each led the team in scoring 11 times this season.
- Stevenett notched his third double-double of the season vs. NAU with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
- Jordan Johnson dished out a career-best seven assists vs. NAU. It was the third time in the last six games he has posted a new career-high in dimes.
- The Thunderbirds hit 15-of-25 shots in the second half against Portland State and 18-of-30 after the break against Sacramento State. Both worked out to be 60.0 percent nights, the team's second-best second halves of the season (behind .630 vs. San Diego Christian) and their third-best halves overall (.625 in the first half at Northern Arizona) this season.
- Stevenett hit the 1,000 career points mark with 19 at Montana, which give him exactly 1,000. 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 Richard Barton finished his career with 1,419 points in 1993 (third on SUU's all-time list). Jeff Monaco finished his career in 2001 with 1,568 points (second) while Davis Baker finished his in 2010 with 1,205 (sixth).
- 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) then had 13 disqualifications in the first eight Big Sky contests, including two at both Northern Arizona and Sac State and three against Weber State and at Montana. The 'Birds went without a disqualification for three games before Jordan Johnson was disqualified at ISU. Cal Hanks then fouled out at Weber State to give the team disqualifications in the last two games.
- 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.
- Stevenett has scored a career-high 29 points twice this season, at Gonzaga and again in the first game vs. Weber State. Stevenett's 11 field goals made against the Zags is tied as the second-highest total in the conference this season.
Scouting Portland State: The Vikings are 5-4 at home this season, including a 3-3 mark in Big Sky games. The conference wins include a 63-49 triumph over Idaho State, an 87-69 victory against Sacramento State and a 79-74 verdict against Northern Arizona. The home losses include a 73-69 setback in overtime against Weber State, an 81-68 loss to Montana and a 70-64 defeat at the hands of Montana State. Four Vikings carry double-figure scoring averages, led by Aaron Moore's 12.8 ppg. Moore also leads the team with 7.0 rebounds per game. In addition to Moore, the double-figure scorers include Renado Parker at 11.4 ppg, Lateef McMullan at 10.4 and Michael Harthun at 10.0 ppg. McMullan also averages a team-high 3.8 assists per game. As a team Portland State averages 67.6 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting (.373 threes) while allowing an average of 72.3 points on .493 shooting (.392 threes). The Vikings have converted 74.2 percent of their free throws and they have been out-rebounded by an average of 31.3-to-30.6 caroms per game.