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Southern Utah's men's basketball team hits the trail for its penultimate Summit League road trip this week as the Thunderbirds travel to Fargo, N.D. and Brookings S.D. to take on North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

The Thunderbirds (12-10/7-5 Summit League) have won five of their last six games, including a 62-60 home win over South Dakota on Saturday night. With that win SUU took sole possession of fourth place in The Summit League, a half-game ahead of Western Illinois and a full game up on Oakland. 

North Dakota State (14-7/7-4 Summit League) holds a half-game lead on the Thunderbirds in the league standings heading into Thursday's game. The Bison edged Oakland, 78-75, on the road on Saturday night to end a three-game skid and stay half-game ahead of the T-Birds. Ironically, the NDSU win also pushed SUU out of a tie with Oakland for fourth place as well.

SUU and NDSU battled into overtime the last time the two met, on Jan. 7 in Cedar City. NDSU's Taylor Braun scored the last six points of the extra session to lift his team to a three-point win, 72-69.

The Game: SUU (12-10/7-5) at North Dakota State (14-7/7-4), 7:00 p.m. (CST) in the Bison Sports Arena (5,830).

Radio: All Southern Utah men's basketball games are broadcast live by KSUU (91.1 FM) as well as on the internet at www.suu.edu/ksuu. Art Challis is in his 39th season as the Thunderbirds' basketball play-by-play voice. Dr. Challis is joined on home broadcasts by former SUU standout Dean O'Driscoll.

The Series: North Dakota State holds a 6-4 edge in the series, including two straight wins, an 87-75 win last year in Fargo and the 72-69 overtime win in Cedar City earlier this season. SUU's last win in the series was a 77-68 home triumph last year. The Thunderbirds are 1-3 at NDSU, winning a 74-69 decision late in the 2008-09 season. The SUU win at the Sports Arena spoiled a perfect home record for the Bison that season, but NDSU avenged the loss with a 79-67 victory in the semi-finals of the 2009 Summit League tournament en route to a conference championship.

Practice Schedule: When at home the practice schedule calls for the team to work out at 3:00 p.m. daily. Contact SUU Director of Athletic Media Relations Neil Gardner for more information.

Media Availability: Players and coaches are available for interviews on Tuesdays prior to practice, between 2:30-3:00 p.m., with occasional adjustments due to scheduling conflicts. To contact a player or coach on another day or time contact Neil Gardner at gardner@suu.edu or 435-586-7753.

Video Highlights: Video highlights of SUU's Summit League 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.

Affiliations: Southern Utah is in its 15th and final season in The Summit League. All but two of SUU's sports compete in The Summit, with football a member of the Great West Conference and gymnastics an affiliate member of the Western Athletic Conference. Most of SUU's programs will move into the Big Sky Conference in 2012. North Dakota State is also a member of The Summit League.

Videostreaming/Live Stats at www.suutbirds.com: All of Southern Utah's 2011-12 home games are video-streamed on the SUU athletic website at www.suutbirds.com. Live stats for all home games and most road games are also be available. Video streams are on a pay basis but there is no cost for live stats.

Thunderbird Club Luncheons: The Thunderbird Club's weekly no-host luncheon is held Mondays at noon in the Tradition Room in the home of President Michael Benson. 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.

SUU To Face UCR In BracketBuster: Southern Utah's regular-season men's basketball schedule had the TBA removed and replaced with UC Riverside on Monday as the Sears BracketBuster match-ups were announced. The Thunderbirds will travel to Riverside, Calif., for a Feb. 18, game and the Highlanders will return the visit next season. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. (PST) in UCR's Student Rec Center.

Next Up: The Thunderbirds return home next week to host Western Illinois on Feb. 9 and IUPUI on Feb. 11. The following week they visit Oakland and play at UC Riverside in a Sears Bracket Busters match-up.

The Coaches: 

Head Coach Roger Reid (Weber State '68) is in his fifth season on the Southern Utah bench. Reid takes a career Division I mark of 204-166 - including a 52-90 record at SUU - into the game. His record includes six years as head coach at Brigham Young. He is 4-6 vs. North Dakota State.

Coach Reid's career has spanned virtually every level of the coaching strata, including the high school, junior college, and NCAA Division I levels as well as in the NBA and international ranks. He is probably best known for his success at Brigham Young University, where he led the Cougars to five NCAA tournament berths and three Western Athletic Conference championships. He has also coached the Phoenix Suns of the NBA and the Hangzhou Horses of the Chinese Basketball Association. Reid coached Snow College to a conference title and a No. 18 national ranking in his final season on the bench there.

Reid is assisted by Ron Carling (BYU '70), a 40-year coaching veteran who is also entering his fifth season with the program; Johnny Brown (New Mexico '86), an 18-year veteran of the coaching ranks who is in his fifth year in Cedar City; and assistant Kenya Crandell (Nebraska-Kearney '96) who is entering his 15th season as a collegiate coach and his fourth year at SUU.

Captains: This year's captains are SUU's three seniors: Ray Jones, Jr., Matt Massey, and Ramell Taylor.

Last Week:

  • Jordan Johnson led the team with a career-best five assists vs. South Dakota. He also pulled down a career-high five rebounds and tied his career highs with three steals and a block vs. the Coyotes.
  • SUU hit just 10-of-17 free throws against South Dakota, but connected on 3-of-4 when it mattered most. Jackson Stevenett hit two to lift the team from a 60-59 deficit into a 61-60 lead with 13 seconds to play, then Johnson hit 1-of-2 with two seconds to go. Stevenett came up with a steal as time expired to ice the victory.
  • With Saturday's win over South Dakota the Thunderbirds notched their 12th victory of the season, assuring the team of its best record since the 2006-07 campaign when it finished 16-14.
  • For the second straight game SUU's shooters bounced back from a sub-par first half in the game against South Dakota. SUU shot 36.8 percent in the first half against UMKC but upped that average to .565 in the second. Against South Dakota the T-Birds shot .433 in the first half, then .619 in the second.
  • SUU and South Dakota were tied, 28-28, at halftime. It was the first time the Thunderbirds and an opponent were tied at the break this year.
  • The Thunderbirds combined to block a season-high seven shots against UMKC, then duplicated the feat against South Dakota. Ramell Taylor led the way with three rejections against the 'Roos ­- tying his career-high - while Jackson Stevenett and Johnson co-led the squad with two each against the Coyotes.
  • Ray Jones, Jr., picked up his third foul with 54 seconds to play in the first half against UMKC. At that point he had five points, one rebound and one assist. He played all 20 minutes of the second half without committing his fourth foul, and in that time he scored 13 points (for a game-high 18), dished out four assists, picked off a steal, blocked a shot and pulled down a rebound.
  • Jackson Stevenett pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds vs. UMKC en route to his first double-double. He had just missed a double-double, with 18 points and a then-career-high-tying nine boards vs. IPFW in the previous game.
  • Jones' team scoring-lead vs. the Kangaroos extended the Thunderbirds' streak of having a different player pacing the team each night to five games, with four different players in four straight games. Stevenett led the team with 18 vs. IPFW, Ramell Taylor (17 points) paced the 'Birds vs. Oakland, Damon Heuir (22) led the team at Western Illinois and it was Jones atop the scoring chart at IUPUI (21). The last time a player led the team in back-to-back games was Jones vs.North Dakota State (15) and again at IUPUI (21).
  • SUU got just two points and two rebounds from its bench vs. UMKC, all from Jaren Jeffery, and all in the first half. The only other statistic from the bench was a Jordan Johnson assist as SUU's starters played 180 minutes in the game.
  • SUU held UMKC to an opponent-season-low 47 points. It was the lowest point total by an SUU opponent during the Roger Reid era. The last time SUU held a team to as few or fewer points was back in December of 2003 when Montana Tech tallied just 41 points. The last time SUU held a Division I opponent to 47 or fewer points was in February of 2002 when the T-Birds limited Chicago State to 35.
  • The win over UMKC marked the first time this season SUU has overcome a halftime deficit to post a win (the Thunderbirds trailed 33-20 at the break). Prior to the game SUU was 0-6 when trailing at the break.

Thunderbird Notes:

Leaders

  • Scoring: Four T-Birds sport double-figure scoring averages: Stevenett at 13.9, Taylor at 13.1 ppg, Heuir at 10.2 and Jones at 10.0. In conference games Stevenett is averaging 16.7 ppg, Taylor is at 12.8 ppg, Jones checks in at 11.1 ppg and Heuir averages 9.5, down from 10.4 after he went scoreless - for just the second time this season - against South Dakota.
  • On the Glass: Stevenett has pulled down 123 rebounds to lead the team with 5.6 per game, while Taylor has 106, an average of 4.8. The Thunderbirds have out-rebounded their opponents by a 32.7-29.8 average.

In the Nation

  • As a team SUU ranks 20th in the nation in field goal percentage this week, at .484. Stevenett's .498 shooting percentage ranks 78th in the nation.
  • Heading into the week the Thunderbirds ranked 34th in the nation and atop The Summit League with an average of 15.3 assists per game. Jones is 54th in the nation with 5.2 dimes per game.
  • Hey buddy, can you spare a dime? SUU has 337 assists, an average of 15.32 a game. That's 100 more than its opponents combined (237, 10.77 apg).
  • Roadies! SUU is 4-2 on the road in conference games. Since joining The Summit League in 1997 the team has been 4-2 over its first six road conference games just once, in the 2000-01 season when SUU wound up 5-3 on the road in league games. That team tied for the then-Mid-Continent Conference regular season championship and went on to claim the tournament title and advance to the NCAA tournament.

Scouting the Bison:

North Dakota State averages 74.3 points per game while holding opponents to just 66.0 ppg. The Bison have hit 49.2 percent of their field goal attempts (.375 threes) while opponents have shot at a .406 clip (.342 threes). NDSU has converted 72.0 percent of its free throw attempts and out-rebounded its opponents by an average of 34.8-to-32.9 per game.

Three Bison carry double-figure scoring averages, led by wingman Taylor Braun (6-7, 205, So), who checks in at 16.5 ppg. Freshman Lawrence Alexander (G, 6-3, 175) averages 12.5 ppg, while Marshall Bjorklund (F, 6-8, 240, So) is at 11.9 ppg and Mike Felt (G, 5-8, 155, So) is close to double figures with 9.5 points per game. Braun also paces the team in rebounding with 7.2 caroms per game, with Bjorklund second at 6.1. Alexander has a team-high 105 assists, an average of 5.0 per game.

NDSU is 8-1 at home this season, 4-1 in conference games. The Bison have stopped Oakland, IPFW, UMKC and South Dakota at home with the lone loss in the Sports Arena coming at the hands of South Dakota State, 91-88, in overtime.           


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