After an extended wait due to the coronavirus pandemic, Southern Utah University men’s basketball tipped off their season Wednesday with a last second loss at Loyola Marymount University, 85-83.
In a hectic game that saw nine tie scores and 11 lead changes, LMU freshman Jalin Anderson caught a loose ball on the final possession of the game, took one dribble toward the basket, and sank the game winner to give former SUU captain Stan Johnson his first win as a Division-I head coach.
“It was good to shake the rust off and get guys back in the swing of things,” SUU head coach Todd Simon said following the contest. “Ultimately, we’ve just got to be better. We’ve got to defend without fouling. We can’t put a team at the line 31 times and expect to win.”
The Thunderbirds started hot out of the gate, sinking 5 of their first 6 3-pointers to jump out to a 19-7 lead eight minutes into the game. Illinois transfer Tevian Jones scored the first basket of the season and poured in 15 more points in the first half to help the T-Birds to their early lead.
The Lions roared back behind 7’3” redshirt senior Mattias Markusson, who finished tied for the game’s leading scorer with 19 points in just 23 minutes. A shot in the paint by Keli Leaupepe knotted things up at 32 with 3:09 remaining in the first half.
One minute later LMU guard Joe Quintana nailed a 3-pointer to give the Lions their first lead of the game. Jones answered with a jumper just inside the three point line and a pair of free throws to tie things back up before a free throw by John Knight III gave SUU a 42-41 lead heading into halftime.
The teams battled back and forth throughout the second half, and neither team held a lead greater than five points.
Knight pitched in six points in the first half and came alive in the second, scoring 13 points to tie Markusson as the game’s leading scorer. The senior guard made a variety of big plays down the stretch, including a massive dunk to give SUU a 54-52 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
SUU held the lead for most of the next eight minutes until a bucket and a free throw by Eli Scott gave LMU a 77-75 lead just inside the final media timeout.
The teams exchanged baskets until Scott made one of two free throws to give LMU a 85-82 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
Knight took the inbound pass and dumped the ball into Maizen Fausett in the post. Fausett immediately played the ball back to Knight, who perfectly executed the give and go through a foul by Anderson. Knight drilled the ensuing free throw to tie the game with 18 ticks left on the clock.
Scott brought the ball up to the top of the key. He made a move to his right to get into the lane toward the basket but had the ball knocked from his hands. It bounced perfectly to Anderson in the corner, who redeemed his mistake of fouling Knight with a picture perfect buzzer beater.
Knight finished the game with a double double, adding a career high 10 assists to go along with his 19 points. He shot 6 of 15 from the field and also finished the game with four turnovers.
Jones struggled to get things going because of foul trouble in the second half, and finished with 17 points, all recorded in the first half.
Fausett finished in double digits with 14 points on 6-8 FG and had seven rebounds. Fellow junior Harrison Butler was the last T-Bird to score double figures with 13 points and six boards.
Sophomore forward Dameane Douglas had 16 points for the Lions with 11 coming in the second period. Anderson and Leaupepe both scored 12 points, and Scott added 11, rounding out the group of five LMU players to finish in double figures.
“We’re just going to work on getting better,” Simon said. “We’ve got to focus on improving in all aspects.”
Southern Utah will play their home opener Saturday against the University of Saint Katherine Firebirds at 1 p.m. inside the America First Event Center.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz