LINCOLN, Neb. — With two seconds remaining in double overtime, senior Cameron Oluyitan hit a jump shot for the Thunderbirds to put them on top of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and ultimately give Southern Utah a 79-78 victory over their Big 10 Conference counterpart.
“Nebraska, being a Big Ten opponent, they’ve got a great coach and to go on their floor and get an opening week win is a testament to our guys and how far they’ve come with the work they put in this offseason,” SUU head coach Todd Simonsaid.
This is Southern Utah’s first road win against a Power Five opponent since they beat Colorado in 1996, along with being SUU’s first win against a Big Ten opponent ever. The Thunderbirds also became only the second-ever Big Sky team to win on the road against a Big Ten opponent.
The Thunderbirds are now 2-0 to start their season.
The Thunderbirds weren’t able to put up a lot of points early on, and midway through the opening half went on a four-plus minute scoreless streak to fall behind 19-12 early.
Nebraska stayed in control for the majority of the first half, including a 16-2 run over an eight minute stretch while forcing the Thunderbirds into a 1-of-15 slump from the field.
As the half came to a close Dre Marin hit a triple for the Thunderbirds and Maizen Fausett threw down a dunk to cut the Cornhusker lead to nine.
The T-Birds hit five of their last six shots of the opening half, while the Huskers hit three of their four, and the home team took a 37-26 advantage into the break.
Fausett led all players at the half with 11 points.
“We had a really tough initial start,” Simon said. “I don’t think we could be more cold to start a game if we tried, but to our guys credit they stayed the course, stayed together and made enough plays to win the game.”
The Thunderbirds rushed out to a 9-2 run at the start of the second half, and cut the Nebraska lead to seven with 11:57 to play. They held the Huskers to 1-of-7 shooting from the field during that time as well.
Southern Utah continued to climb back in the contest, and cut the Nebraska lead to just one point with 7:43 to play when Jakolby Long hit a layup. The Cornhuskers quickly responded with back-to-back jumpers to take a 58-53 advantage with 6:39 remaining.
The game stayed incredibly close down the stretch, and with just five seconds to play Dwayne Morgan went to the free throw line to take a 69-66 lead. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, the Cornhuskers hit a last-second triple to force overtime.
Neither team was able to create a big enough advantage in the first overtime period, and after five minutes the score stayed tied 72-72.
Ultimately, the T-Birds won in double overtime 79-78 thanks to Oluyitan’s jumper.
“We wanted to lift the floor and give our guys the space to make a play,” Simon said. “Cam has made that shot a million times in practice and he made a big time play.”
Dwayne Morgan led the Thunderbirds with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“He hit huge free throws for us, he was 7-of-8 from the line, did a great job there and was really proud of his effort and intensity,” Simon said.
Fausett finished with 13, while Oluyitan had 11 total. Both Marin and Long finished with 10.
The Thunderbirds will be back on the road Wednesday as they square off against the BYU Cougars in Provo, Utah. That game is part of the Maui Jim Classic on the Mainland.
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Read all about the Thunderbirds on www.suutbirds.com.
Season Tickets for the 2019-20 season, as well as single game tickets, are available for purchase at the America First Event Center Ticket Office and online at www.tbirdtickets.com.
Story and photos courtesy of SUU Athletics