GAME NOTES: A perfect 3-0 in their new conference, the Southern Utah Thunderbirds will try to keep their record in the Big Sky unblemished as they clash with the Sacramento State Hornets on Monday night.
The Thunderbirds opened the season with four straight defeats against some top-notch competition, but the team has turned it around against conference foes of late. Thanks to a 90-77 victory over Northern Arizona on the road on Saturday, SUU has now won two straight and three of the last four games overall, although that one setback was a lopsided 72-47 outcome against Denver not that long ago.
As for the Hornets, they are moving in the opposite direction of SUU at the moment, dropping two straight and four of their last five contests overall. Sacramento State, which won three in a row and five of its first six games of the season (mostly against questionable opponents), was last in action on Thursday when it bowed to the aforementioned Lumberjacks in a 57-50 final.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, the Hornets have a 13-6 advantage.
Southern Utah shot a sensational 62.5 percent from the field in the first half against NAU and then continued to shoot well after intermission at 50 percent, not to mention 27-of-30 at the free-throw line in the double-digit road victory. Damon Heuir led four players in double figures as he tallied 30 points, converting not only 4-of-6 behind the 3-point line, but also 14-of-16 at the charity stripe. Before fouling out, Jackson Stevenett chipped in 14 points, followed by Julian Scott and Wade Collie with 13 and 10 points, respectively, for a squad that overcame an unsightly 22 turnovers with 56.8 percent accuracy from the floor. Because of the scoring burst in the last game, Heuir has taken over the scoring lead for SUU with his 14.5 ppg, just ahead of Stevenett (14.1 ppg) who continues to struggle from 3-point range at only 26.9 percent. Even though the T'birds came alive on offense against NAU, the team is still producing a mere 65.3 ppg, far below the 73.1 ppg the group is giving up.
A 3-pointer by Dylan Garrity just 10 seconds into the meeting with the Lumberjacks put Sacramento State up early, but that advantage was short-lived as the hosts promptly went on a 9-0 run to move ahead on the way to the seven- point decision in Flagstaff. Joe Eberhard and John Dickson both tallied 12 points for the visitors, the former capturing a game-high 10 rebounds as well, but it made little difference as the team shot just 34.0 percent from the floor, including 4-of-14 beyond the arc, and had four more turnovers (20) than made baskets. Having led the team in scoring in more than half of their games thus far, Dickson accounts for 15.5 ppg and is also among the team leaders with 5.5 rpg, which might be enough of a reason for him to dial down his efforts behind the 3-point line where he's taken more shots (46) than anyone else by hit on only 32.6 percent. Mikh McKinney (12.8 ppg) and Garrity (12.6 ppg) may not shoot the ball as often from the perimeter, but they've combined to make 31-of-68 to this point.
The fact that Sacramento lost to NAU and Southern Utah won against the 'Jacks by double figures might lead one to believe that the Thunderbirds should have the advantage in this meeting, but that's probably not the case as long as the home team can dictate the tempo.
Game Date and Time