Southern Utah University men’s basketball team looks to maintain momentum as they travel to Orem, Utah, to take on Utah Valley University.
The T-Birds are coming off back-to-back Big Sky conference wins against the University of Montana and have a record of 3-1 overall. The wins and stellar play contributed to junior forward Maizen Fausett being named the Big Sky Player of the Week.
The Wolverines beat Division II Westminster College on December 2, improving their record to 2-1 overall. They are led by junior guard Trey Woodbury, who earned himself the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week on December 1.
Takeaways from Montana
SUU took care of the ball in both outings against the Griz. In Thursday’s game, SUU only committed nine turnovers while forcing 13, and in Saturday’s game, SUU committed 11 turnovers while again forcing 13. Montana only scored nine total points off turnovers in both outings combined.
The T-Birds also demonstrated their ability to crash the offensive glass and put up second chance points. In game one, SUU snagged 13 offensive rebounds and scored 12 second chance points and followed that performance with 10 and 15 respectively in game two.
SUU also showed an ability to dominate both the offensive and defensive transition game. They scored a total of 12 fastbreak points between the two games and allowed just three fastbreak points for Montana.
On the other hand, SUU had streaks where it was difficult for them to string together consecutive stops. Despite forcing more turnovers than their opponent, Montana shot a healthy 49.5% from the field between both games, including 48% from long range.
SUU struggled from the field in both games, hitting an average of 38% of their shots and 29% from deep.
In particular, SUU could not find the bottom of the net in the middle minutes of each half in both games. In all but the first half of game two, SUU never led between minutes 13 and 8 minute marks. It was during these stretches that Montana saw their biggest leads of games.
SUU’s ability to battle back from double digit leads speaks to the resilience of head coach Todd Simon and his squad. Despite being down double digits in both games, his team fought back to take the victory.
UVU Scouting Report
UVU head coach Mark Madsen keeps a short rotation, usually consisting of seven or eight players. Madsen leans on his starters to play a lot of minutes. So far, starters Woodbury, Aimaq Fardaws, and Jamison Overton are all hovering around 30 MPG.
This could be an advantage for the Wolverines. Overton, Woodbury, and Fardaws are UVU’s leading scorers averaging 19.7, 19.0, and 13.0 PPG respectively. Of the 74 PPG UVU is averaging this season, the trio combines for 52 of them.
Overton leads the team in steals (2.3 per game) and blocks (1.0 per game). With him as their defensive leader, the Wolverines are forcing an average of 18 turnovers per game, which is leading them to an average 18.3 points off turnovers per game.
Woodbury is shooting 57% from 3-point range. His consistent outside threat makes up for Fardaws lack of floor spacing ability.
Fardaws is averaging 14.7 rebounds in three contests this season. Standing at 6’11” he’s pulled down 29 more rebounds than the team’s next highest rebounder, Overton. In each of the wins against Adam State University and Westminster, Fardaws pulled down 18 boards.
While UVU’s reliance on Overton, Woodbury and Fardaws gives Madsen an experienced core, it could also be a disadvantage for the Wolverines because of the rate at which they turn the ball over.
The trio has combined for 22 turnovers in the three games this year. This plays into SUU’s advantage, as the T-Birds score 15.6 points per game off turnovers.
Overton and Woodbury have each fouled out at least one game this season, while Fardaws has had two games with four fouls each. SUU showed the ability to target Montana’s bigs and get to the line as they made their way to the line 56 times against Montana last week.
Fardaws and Woodbury, on the other hand, seem to refuse to get to the free-throw line. They’ve combined for 12 total free-throws this season and are only shooting a combined 67% from the charity stripe.
Overton has found his way to the line an average of six times per game, but is only shooting 63%. The T-Birds have shot more than double the amount of free-throws than the Wolverines have this season, 88-39 respectively.
Three Keys to the Game
Who will win the turnover battle?
Both teams force more turnovers than they commit and both teams love to play offense in transition. UVU is averaging 18.3 fastbreak points this game while SUU is averaging 8.3. If SUU grows careless with the ball, that’s a major 10 point swing in UVU’s favor.
With that said, the T-Birds turn the ball over about three times less per game than the Wolverines do. In addition, SUU’s transition defense is pretty efficient, only allowing 2.3 fast break points per game.
If SUU can prohibit UVU from taking the ball away, it could make it a lot more difficult for run and gun guards Woodbury and Overton to get going.
Can SUU continue to get second chance points?
SUU is pulling down an average of 7 offensive rebounds per game.
UVU is allowing an average of 7.3 offensive rebounds per game.
The T-Birds convert over 50% of their offensive rebounds into second chance points, averaging 11.3 second chance points per game.
It’s early in the season, but if the statistics hold true, SUU can count on at least 11 points coming off offensive boards, which could offset UVU’s fastbreak point advantage.
Still, Fardaws is a big body down low, and statistically speaking, he’s the best rebounder SUU has faced so far. Look for extended Ivan Madunic minutes for SUU to help offset Fardaws’ size advantage.
Which team can avoid foul trouble?
This could be the biggest swing in Wednesday night’s game.
As mentioned earlier, UVU’s trio of Fardaws, Overton, and Woodbury have a tendency to foul and SUU has a tendency to get to the free-throw line.
The offensive talent of SUU forward Tevian Jones might require the attention of UVU’s perimeter defender, Overton. Look for Jones to draw a lot of contact against Overton in order to get him in foul trouble.
It’s no secret that SUU guard John Knight III loves to get inside, and with a screening team like SUU, Woodbury could have the difficult task of switching onto Knight III from time to time. Regardless of who picks him up on the perimeter, Knight III’s ability to penetrate the defense could cause problems for Fardaws.
Madunic, however, fouled out in both games against Montana, and struggled to stay out of foul trouble in SUU’s first game against Loyola Marymount University.
If Madunic gets into early foul trouble, Simon will have to make the tough decision whether to go small and play the 6’6” Fausett at the center spot, or give minutes to 6’9” forward Courtese Cooper who logged just two minutes in the series against Montana.
Where, When, and How?
The T-Birds battle the Wolverines at 6:00 p.m. mountain time in Orem. The game can be viewed on the WAC Digital Network, https://www.wacdigitalnetwork.com/.
Story by: Kelton Jacobsen
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz