The Thunderbirds of Southern Utah moved to 5-0 at home and 6-4 on the season this afternoon as they knocked off the Chippewas of Central Michigan at the America First Event Center 86-80.
“The guys are excited,” SUU head coach Todd Simon said. “They’re putting the time in and they’re starting to see the fruits of their labor a little bit. Most importantly, the way we were able to defend today was our best defensive effort of the season, so being able to do it on that side of the floor for stretches is good development for us.”
The win will also give the Thunderbirds a winning record moving into Big Sky Conference play regardless of the outcome of their final non-conference contest.
Southern Utah got off to a hot start on Saturday, as the T-Birds jumped out to a 30-16 lead over the Chippewas. However, Central Michigan started heating up as the half continued, as an 8-0 run got Central Michigan right back into the contest.
The final minutes of the opening half were a back-and-forth affair, with the T-Birds taking a 42-40 advantage into the break.
Ivan Madunic and Brandon Better led the way offensively for Southern Utah in the opening 20 minutes, as Madunic had 14 and Better had 10. Madunic finished the first half 4-of-5 from behind the three point line.
SUU broke out on a 9-2 run to get things going in the second half, creating a little bit of separation between them and the Chippewas. Despite Central Michigan staying within striking distance the entire way, the Thunderbirds never relinquished the lead and eventually pulled away 86-80.
Better led all scorers with 17, closely followed by James McGee and Madunic who dropped in 16. Jadon Cohee finished with 12 points and seven assists.
“We’re excited, and we’re doing what we said we were going to do,” McGee said. “We said we were going to play as a team and get stops, and we did and the outcome was great.
Madunic’s 16 is a new career-high.
“We were just so prepared,” Madunic said about the team’s performance. “We practiced really hard this week, coach had a great game plan and we just executed.”
Cohee’s seven assists was also a career high.
Central Michigan was led by Cecil Williams, who finished with 21 on Saturday.
The next contest for the Thunderbirds will be in Iowa as they’ll take on the Hawkeyes out of the Big Ten Conference. That contest on December 19 is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. MT.
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SUU Athletics Strategic Communications