The Thunderbirds suffered a heartbreaker on Saturday night, as Idaho’s Brayon Blake hit a game winning shot with just seconds to play to give the Vandals a 78-76 victory.
“We’re competitive, we can play with anybody in the league, we’ve just been on the wrong side of the last minute of games,” SUU head coach Todd Simon said.
The contest was Southern Utah’s final regular season contest of the 2017-18 campaign, and the Thunderbirds finished with a 11-18 overall record and a 5-13 Big Sky record.
On a big positive note for the Thunderbirds, James McGee scored 18 points in the contest and became the fourth leading scorer all-time in Southern Utah basketball history. He will head to Reno with 1,285 career points.
“He was great,” Simon said of McGee’s performance. “They got two quick fouls on him in the first half, and he came out in the second half and responded. He ran the team, he made clutch shots and did what one of the better players in SUU history does.
After trailing by as many as nine early on, the Thunderbirds went on a 13-0 run in the first half to tighten things up. The Vandals found some momentum right before the half, and took a 36-29 advantage into the break.
With 11 seconds on the clock and the game going down to the wire, McGee pulled up and drained a three for the Thunderbirds to tie the contest up at 76-76. After a missed attempt by Victor Sanders, Blake took advantage of the second opportunity and secured the game for Idaho.
Brandon Better led the scoring effort for the Thunderbirds, finishing the game with 21 points. Jamal Aytes had 17 and Dwayne Morgan had 12 before fouling out in 29 minutes of action.
Sanders led the Vandals with 28, while Blake had 24.
The Thunderbirds will now turn their attention to the Big Sky Conference Tournament, where they’ll take on the Idaho State Bengals as the No. 10 seed. Idaho State will enter the contest as the No. 7 seed.
“We’ve already done preparations for Idaho State, and we’ll dig into it a little bit more,” Simon said about the matchup. “We split with them in the regular season, but they’re playing well right now and playing with a lot of confidence so it’s going to be a dog fight on Tuesday.”
That game is scheduled for 6:35 MT on Tuesday, 5:35 local time.
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SUU Athletics Strategic Communications