Southern Utah’s men’s basketball team plays the third game in a four-game homestand Thursday when the Thunderbirds host Portland State. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7:05 p.m. in the Centrum.
The Thunderbirds (1-22/0-14 Big Sky) are coming off a 75-65 home loss to Idaho State. SUU is still looking for its first Big Sky win of the season and the Thunderbirds almost got it the last time they met the Vikings, but Marcus Hall hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go to give PSU a 66-64 lead and the Viks held on for a 67-64 win in Portland on Jan. 25.
Portland State (11-12/6-8 Big Sky) began a four-game winning streak with the victory over Southern Utah as the Vikings went on to post home wins over Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado and North Dakota, but since the win over UND they have lost four straight, most recently a 72-65 home loss to Sacramento State last Saturday night.
The Game: Portland State (11-12/6-8) at Southern Utah (1-22/0-14) Thursday at 7:05 p.m. (MST) in the Centrum Arena (5,300), Cedar City, Utah.
Media Availability: Players and coaches are made available for interviews on Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m., with occasional adjustments because of travel and class schedules.
Radio: All SUU men’s basketball games are broadcast live by Power 91 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 is joined on home and selected road broadcasts by former SUU standout Dean O’Driscoll.
On The Internet: All of Southern Utah’s home games and Big Sky road games will be available on Watch Big Sky, at www.bigskytv.org. Audio of SUU home and road games is available at the Thunderbirds’ website at www.suutbirds.com or at www.power91radio.com.
Live Stats: Live stats of all of SUU’s home games and selected road contests will be available at www.suutbirds.com.
Video Highlights: Video highlights of the Thunderbirds’ home games will be 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.
The Series: PSU holds a 3-1 edge in the series between the two schools on the hardwood, including the 67-64 win in Portland last month. 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 fifth meeting between the two schools in men’s basketball. The two teams split a pair of games last season, with the Thunderbirds taking a 76-63 win in Cedar City and the Vikings answering that with a 90-69 win in Portland later in the season. The first meeting between SUU and PSU came early in the 1969-70 season when the Vikings took a 107-93 win over the then-NAIA Thunderbirds in Portland.
SUU Head Coach Nick Robinson (Stanford ‘05), a 2013 finalist for the Joe B. Hall Award which honors the top first-year coach in the nation, has a record of 12-42 in his second season at SUU and his second season overall as a head coach. In his first year at SUU Coach Robinson led the Thunderbirds to a sixth-place finish in the Big Sky Conference, earning a BSC tournament berth in the school’s first season in the league. SUU posted an 11-20 overall record, including an 8-12 mark in Big Sky games last year, when two Thunderbirds, seniors Jackson Stevenett and Damon Heuir, earned all-conference honors. 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 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. Coach Robinson is 1-2 vs. the Vikings.
Robinson is assisted by Todd Okeson (Nevada ‘05), Chad Bell (Nevada ‘06), and Drew Allen (Southern Utah ‘10). Yahosh Bonner (Northern Colorado ‘10) serves as Director of Basketball Operations. Okeson and Allen were with the Thunderbirds last season while Bell and Bonner are in their first seasons with the program.
Portland State is coached by Tyler Geving (Central Washington, 1996), who is 63-82 in his fifth season at the helm of the Viking program and his fifth overall as a head coach. Coach Geving is 2-1 vs. SUU.
Pre-Conference Schedule: The Thunderbirds’ non-conference schedule was one of the toughest in the nation, as SUU’s strength of schedule ranked 46th in Division I and second in the Big Sky after their nine non-conference games. The Thunderbirds’ 2013-14 SOS has been as high as 34th. The non-conference schedule was heavy with road contests as the team scheduled just three official games in the Centrum before the conference opener. The Thunderbirds went 1-2, with a win over Arizona Christian and losses to UC Riverside and UNLV, at home in the pre-season and 0-6 on the road. The road slate included games at No. 23 San Diego State, California, Utah State, San Diego, Portland and Cal State Northridge.
SUU by the Numbers: In Big Sky games the Thunderbirds are averaging 57 points per game on 42.3 percent shooting (.323 threes) while knocking down 67.8 percent of their free throws. SUU has allowed conference opponents an average of 70.7 points on .474 shooting (.394 threes) and has been out-rebounded by an average of 33.8-26.9 caroms per game. Sophomore wing A.J. Hess leads the team in scoring at 9.6 ppg while senior forward Jaren Jeffery adds 8.7 and freshman guard Trey Kennedy is third at 8.8 ppg. Sophomore forward Casey Oliverson leads the team in rebounding with 4.7 caroms per Big Sky game while Jeffery is second on the squad with 4.2 boards and Hess averages 3.5. Kennedy leads the team with 2.6 assists per game while freshman guard John Marshall is second on the squad in assists with 1.9 per game and leads the team with 15 steals, an average of 1.1 per game. Junior Cal Hanks leads the team with 12 blocks and senior Jayson Cheesman has nine.
Scouting Portland State:
The Vikings – who have been starting four guards with three under 6-1 – are 1-7 on the road this season, 1-5 in conference play.
Junior guard Tim Douglas (5-10, 160) leads the Vikings in scoring (13.1 ppg) and assists (3.7) while junior guard DaShaun Wiggins (6-2, 185) – who spent a season at Eastern Utah – comes off the bench to average 12.8 ppg. PSU’s leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, Aaron Moore (F, 6-8, 210, Sr) has appeared in and started nine games but is under a team suspension. Moore was averaging 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The leading active rebounder is senior forward Kyle Richardson (6-7, 235) with 5.5 rpg and a team-best 16 blocked shots as well. The Vikings have four players who have each attempted over 50 3-pointers and all are connecting at .333 or better: Douglas is 35-of-105 (.333) from long-distance, Wiggins is 26-of-74 (.351), Marcus Hall has knocked down 37-of-91 threes (.407) and Gary Winston (G, 6-0, 190, Jr) has been deadly from beyond the arc, hitting 30-of-61 attempts, a Big Sky-best 49.2 percent.
As a team the Vikings have averaged 72 points on 46.4 percent shooting (.370 threes), while allowing opponents an average of 71.4 points on .473 shooting (.385 threes). PSU has converted 71.3 percent of its free throw opportunities and has been out-rebounded by an average of 32.9-to-30.7 rebounds per game.
Young T-Birds: Southern Utah is one of the youngest teams in America, with just 10 combined seasons of collegiate experience heading into the 2013-14 campaign. SUU has five true freshmen (not including walk-ons) on the roster and three of the five have played in every game. Freshman point guard Trey Kennedy has started all but two games while guard John Marshall has started 13 games and wing Juwan Major has started five. Wing Race Parsons, who has appeared in all but one game, got his first career start against Idaho State while wing McKay Anderson has also had one start – alongside Kennedy, Major and Marshall – at Cal State Northridge. In addition to the freshmen, forward Casey Oliverson, a sophomore in his first season with the Thunderbirds, has started 13 games.
• Race Parsons scored 12 points vs. Idaho State in his first collegiate start. He hit four 3-pointers as the Thunderbirds tied their season-high with nine long distance connections.
• Jaren Jeffery came off the bench to score 12 points and lead the team with even rebounds vs. Idaho State. He has posted double-figure scoring nights in three straight games and has led or co-led the team in rebounding in all three.
• Walk-on freshman Taylor Jenson hadn’t scored until knocking down a 3-pointer against Weber State. He then played a career-high 10 minutes against Idaho State, connecting on 2-of-4 3-point attempts for six points. He also had a rebound and an assist vs. the Bengals.
• SUU out-rebounded Idaho State 35-33 and had 12 assists to the Bengals seven. It was just the fourth time this season the T-Birds have had more rebounds than their opponent.