T-Birds Host Griz On Senior Night

March 03, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Damon Heuir is one of five seniors who will be making their final home appearance Monday night
Damon Heuir is one of five seniors who will be making their final home appearance Monday night
Courtesy: SUU Strategic Communications

Southern Utah's men's basketball team wraps up its 2012-13 home schedule Monday night when the Thunderbirds host Big Sky-leading Montana.

The game will be the final home contest for five SUU seniors, Damon Heuir, Jordan Johnson, Tyson Koehler, Julian Scott and Jackson Stevenett.

The Thunderbirds (11-16/8-9 Big Sky) will be looking to right the ship after dropping four straight conference games. The Thunderbirds have a challenge ahead of them if they want to earn a Big Sky Conference tournament berth in their first season in the league, as their three remaining games pit them against league-leading Montana at home, at Northern Colorado which is also fighting for  tournament berth, and at North Dakota, which wrapped up a berth last week.

SUU heads into the game - and the final week of regular-season play -  all alone in fifth place in the Big Sky, a half-game behind Northern Colorado, which won at Portland State on Saturday, and a half-game ahead of Montana State, Northern Arizona and Sacramento State.

Montana (20-6/16-1 Big Sky) held off Montana State on Saturday night, 71-68, to remain atop the BSC standings, a half-game ahead of Weber State, which won at Northern Arizona on Saturday. The Grizzlies, who have won 16 of their last 18 games, had a 14-game winning streak snapped with a loss at Weber State on Feb. 14. They bounced back from that defeat with a win at Idaho State, then lost in overtime on BracketBuster weekend at Davidson before notching the win at Montana State.

The Game: Montana (20-6/16-1) at Southern Utah (11-16/8-9), Monday at 7:05 p.m. in the Centrum Arena (5,200), Cedar City, Utah.

The Series: Montana holds a 6-5 edge in the series which began with an 83-50 UM win in 1983, but the Thunderbirds are 3-2 vs. the Grizzlies in Cedar City, including a 74-65 victory in the last meeting in the Centrum, back in the 1999-2000 season. The Griz claimed a 73-67 win in the last meeting between the two schools, last month in Missoula, Mont. The Thunderbirds' last win in the series came during the 2000-01 season when they edged the Griz, 89-87, in Missoula.
TV: There will be no live television coverage of the 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.

Coming Up: SUU closes the regular season with a trip to Northern Colorado and North Dakota this week, playing UNC on Thursday and UND on Saturday. The Big Sky Conference tournament begins March 14 at either Montana or Weber State, depending on which team claims the regular-season title.

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 earned his second Big Sky Conference Player of the Week award following his play in the Thunderbirds' home wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. 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.

The Coaches: 

Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford, 2005) is 11-16 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 0-1 vs. Montana.

Robinson is assisted by Jared Barrett (Eastern Oregon, 1996), Todd Okeson (Nevada, 2005) and Drew Allen (Southern Utah, 2010).

Wayne Tinkle (Montana, 2005) is in his seventh season as a head coach, all at Montana. He will take a record of 136-77 into Monday's game. Montana assistant coach Kerry Rupp played at SUU from 1975 to 1977 and is eighth on the school's all-time scoring list. Coach Tinkle is 1-0 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. Montana is a charter member of the Big Sky.

The Schedule: The Thunderbirds have played 10 non-conference games, four at home, four true road contests, and two neutral court match-ups. They have played eight conference games at home and eight 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, San Diego and Cal State Northridge.

Last Time Out:Jackson Stevenett scored 19 points and pulled down six rebounds while Jayson Cheesman had 11 and five but Montana State came from behind to stun the Thunderbirds, 62-61, in a critical Big Sky game for both teams. SUU had a chance to solidify its hold on fourth place in the BSC standings but with the loss the Thunderbirds allowed MSU and Northern Arizona to pull into a three-way tie at 8-9 in league play. SUU led from the opening basket but the Bobcats didn't ever trail by more than nine. Montana State got its first lead of the game when Antonio Bigelow picked off a steal and drove for a layup to give MSU a 62-61 advantage with 1:11 to play. That layup proved to be the final basket of the game, and the final points of the game, as both teams missed shots and committed turnovers in the final minute. SUU had one last chance when Damon Heuir stole the ball from Bigelow with :03 seconds to go but the Thunderbirds wound up not getting off a shot. SUU held MSU to .359 shooting, including .265 in the first half, and shot .458 itself but the Bobcats owned a 41-31 rebounding advantage and were able to take advantage of 14 SUU turnovers. Paul Egwuonwu came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down 13 rebounds as the Bobcats had 17 offensive boards which contributed to 16 second chance points. Christian Moon scored 17 points to lead four MSU players in double figures.

T-Birds In The National Ranks: The Thunderbirds have two players ranked in three categories in the NCAA's top-100, and the team ranks among the top 100 in three categories as well. After hitting all six of his free throw attempts vs. Cal State Northridge and 4-of-4 vs. Montana State Jackson Stevenett moved from 14th to eighth in free throw percentage at .892. Stevenett also ranks 43rd in scoring (17.9 ppg) while Jayson Cheesman ranks 43rd in blocks per game with an average of 2.15. As a team the Thunderbirds are 26th in the country with 5.1 blocks per game, 49th in free throw percentage (.732) and 73rd in rebounding margin (plus 3.8).

T-Birds In The Big Sky: 

Stevenett and Heuir are second and third in scoring in the conference when all games are considered. Stevenett is second in the league at 17.9 points per game while Heuir checks in at 15.9 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage at .892, ninth in rebounding with 6.0 per game and ninth in offensive rebounds per game (2.0). Heuir is sixth in 3-pointers per game (1.9), while Cheesman is third in blocks per game with 2.1, fifth in rebounding with 6.5 rpg and seventh in defensive rebounds with 4.7 per game. Cal Hanks is eighth in blocks per game with 1.1. The team leads the conference in offensive rebounds (12.1 rpg), and is second in blocks (5.1 per game), rebounding margin (plus 3.8) and defensive rebounds (25.6 rpg) and third in free throw percentage (.738).

When only conference games are considered, Stevenett ranks third in the Big Sky with 19.9 ppg while Heuir is fourth in the league with 16.6 ppg. Stevenett is also second in free throw percentage (.882), third in minutes played (35.0 per game), seventh in offensive rebounds (2.2 rpg), ninth in overall rebounding (6.5 rpg), and 11th in field goal percentage (.504). Heuir is fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.1) and seventh in free throw percentage (.830). Cheesman is second in blocks per game (2.0), sixth in rebounding with 6.9 caroms per game and seventh in defensive rebounds (4.9 rpg), while Hanks is sixth in blocks (1.2 bpg). The team leads the league in offensive rebounds (12.7 pg) and is second in defensive boards (25.5), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.324) and rebounding margin (plus-2.8), and is third in free throw percentage (.748) and blocked shots per game (5.3).

Moving Up The Ranks:

Jackson Stevenett is one of just three T-Birds to currently rank among SUU's career top-10 in both scoring and rebounding. With his 19 points against Montana State Stevenett has 1,210 points in his three-plus seasons as a Thunderbird, good for sixth on SUU's career scoring sheet. He passed a pair of former Thunderbirds on the list on Thursday night: current Montana assistant Kerry Rupp, who tallied 1,198 points from 1975 to 1977, and former teammate Davis Baker who finished his career (2007-10) with 1,205 points. Stevenett also has 475 career rebounds, which ranks 10th all time at SUU. He needs 18 to pass Dana Achtzehn (1990-92) for ninth place on the list and 24 to pass Lew Christensen (1965-69) for eighth. The only other two players currently in the top-10 in both scoring and rebound are Richard Barton and Robert "Dunn" Lee. Barton is second on SUU's career scoring list with 1,419 points and fourth on its rebounding list with 557 while 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 blocked 58 shots this season, which is  third on SUU's single-season list and sixth on the career list. He needs two to tie Sean Allen's 60 in 1994-95 for second place and six to tie Matt Hodgson (2009-10) atop the single-season list. He needs two to move past Kerry Sherwood (1989-91), who is in fifth place on the career list with 59.

With seven blocks vs. Montana State the team set a school record with 139 rejections in a season, passing the 135 the 2010-11 squad blocked.

Cleaning The Glass:

  • The Thunderbirds have won the battle of the boards 17 times this season but they have not out-rebounded their opponent in the last five games. 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 when the teams played in Ogden three weeks ago. Portland State had a 37-36 advantage, Eastern Washington also edged the 'Birds by one, 41-40, SUU and Northridge came out even 34-34, and Montana State had a 41-31 edge on the glass.
  • SUU has reeled in 40 or more caroms 12 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.
Block Party:
  • As noted above, SUU set a school record with 139 blocks this season, four better than the previous high-water mark set in 2010-11.
  • SUU averages 5.1 blocks per game, which ranks second in the Big Sky. The Thunderbirds have rejected 132 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.
  • SUU has five or more blocks in a game 16 times this season.
T-Bird Notes:
  • SUU is now 9-0 all-time at home against Cal State Northridge after the BracketBuster win. In the team's brief BracketBuster life SUU went 1-1, with a loss at UC Riverside last year.
  • Jackson Stevenett hit 4-of-4 free throws vs. Montana State. It was the eighth time this season he has been perfect from the line and the 15th time a Thunderbird has been perfect. He has hit 54-of-57 free throws over the last six games, including four perfect efforts (4-4 vs. MSU, 6-6 vs. Northridge, 7-7 at Idaho State and 9-9 at Portland State).
  • The Thunderbirds were plagued early in the season by turnovers but have had more than 13 just once in the last 10 games, including a season-low nine at Weber State, until giving it up 14 times vs. Montana State.
  • Jayson Cheesman has pulled down seven or more rebounds in seven of the last nine games, including nine, 10 and 11 in the three of the last four.
  • Cheesman now has 175 rebounds this season and Jackson Stevenett has 157, marking the first time since the 2008-09 season that SUU has had two players with 150 or more rebounds. In '08-09 John Clifford pulled down 254 boards while Tyler Quinney finished with 155.
  • A.J. Hess hit 7-of-14 shots, 5-of-10 from 3-point range, to finish with a career-high 24 points at Eastern Washington. He doubled his previous career scoring high, 12 at Idaho State, with the effort.
  • 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 as a head coach. 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.
  • Chris Nsenki tied his career-high with 10 points at ISU, including a perfect 3-for-3 night from 3-point range.
  • Northern Arizona was 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.
  • Stevenett has posted double-figures in 21 straight games, including 10 games during the streak with 20 or more points. Heuir had scored in double figures in 13 straight games until finishing with just three at Eastern Washington. He had tallied 14 or more points in each of the 12 and four 20-point-plus efforts during the streak. Either Stevenett or Heuir has led the team in scoring in all but one game this year.
  • Stevenett notched his third double-double of the season vs. NAU with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Stevenett hit the 1,000 career points mark with 19 at Montana, which gave 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 at the time, now seventh).
  • 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 first 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, Jaren Jeffery was disqualified at Portland State and Jackson Stevenett drew five fouls at Eastern Washington, making the total 17 in 16 conference games. Jeffery picked up five fouls against Northridge to make it five DQs in 10 non-conference games, but no one was disqualified against Montana State.
  • 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.
  • Wade Collie has been dismissed from the squad for violation of team policies.
Scouting Montana: The Grizzlies are 8-4 on the road this season, 7-1 in conference games, with the only BSC loss an 87-63 setback on Valentines Day. The Griz are ranked 14th in the Mid-Major Top-25, as of Feb. 25. Montana averages 71.3 points per game on .474 shooting (.397 threes) while allowing opponents an average of 66.1 ppg on .434 shooting (.340 threes). The Griz have hit 76.2 percent of their free throws and have been out-rebounded by an average margin of 32.3-to-30.8 per game. Senior forward Mathias Ward (6-7, 228) leads the team with an average of 14.8 points per game, but he has missed the last two games with an injury. Kareem Jamar (G/F, 6-5, 210, Jr) averages 13.9 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game. Two-time All-Big Sky guard Will Cherry, who missed the first seven games of the season after off-season foot surgery, averages 13,2 points and 4.4 assists per game, but he was injured in the Davidson game and did not play at Montana State either. Sophomore Keron DeShields (6-2, 182) got the start at MSU for Cherry and responded by leading the team with a 17-point, five-assist effort in 38 minutes on the court, while Spencer Coleman (6-7, 210, Jr) started in place of Ward and had 14-points and a team-high six-rebounds in 29 minutes.