Southern Utah University men’s basketball beat Bethesda University 98-64 in a game that had SUU fans sweating for the first 20 minutes.
Junior Tevian Jones led the way for the Thunderbirds, scoring 22 points and snagging 11 boards. Senior John Knight III scored 11 on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field while junior Nick Fleming added 10.
Bethesda was led by senior Steve Wooten, who scored a game high 34 and pulled down 12 rebounds. No other Flame player scored in double digits.
SUU started an unusual line-up that featured junior Marquis Moore, freshman Jason Spurgin, and junior Harrison Butler. From the outset, it looked like head coach Todd Simon was planning to rest Knight III along with senior Ivan Madunic and junior Maizen Fausett.
The game remained close throughout the first half, and with Bethesda leading at the 2:44 mark, Simon was forced to introduce Knight III and Fausett in the game for the first time.
“This was supposed to be a rest game for me,” Knight III said. “[Fausett] didn’t even warm up.”
SUU turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and only had four second chance points despite having an apparent size advantage. The T-Birds went into halftime only leading their NAIA opponent by three, 36-33.
“We weren’t playing our game,” said Fausett. “It was nothing they did.”
Luckily for T-Bird fans, the addition of Fausett and Knight III, along with an intense halftime pep talk by Simon turned the tides in SUU’s favor.
In a true tale of two halves, SUU only turned the ball over twice in the second half, while also scoring 26 second chance points.
SUU began putting the game out of reach after three straight layups by Fausett, Jones and Butler at the 16-minute mark.
SUU also sured things up on the defensive end, forcing nine turnovers and only allowing two offensive rebounds in addition to holding Bethesda to zero second chance points and zero fastbreak points in the game.
“We weren’t good enough in the first half,” Simon said. “We were able to clean it up in the second half and there’s a good lesson there. We need to keep it going all of the time.”
Simon was able to play plenty of different line-ups after the 8:00 mark of the second half due to a 20-plus point lead.
Junior Dee Barnes made his T-Bird debut at the 5:25 mark in the second half. Barnes was unable to take the floor in SUU’s first six games while he awaited his transfer waiver.
In perfect fashion, Barnes hit his first triple off an assist from senior Dre Marin.
“Coach told me he’s going to ease me into it,” said Barnes. “I was tired, but it felt good getting back out there and it feels good having a coach who trusts me and teammates who trust me.”
Barnes didn’t seem to miss a beat. At the 25-second mark in the second half, he rose up above the other nine players and attempted to hammer home a monster dunk. There was an audible gasp in the arena as he bounced higher than everyone.
The dunk was missed, but according to Barnes, SUU fans should plan to see a lot of show time slams this season.
“I feel like I got cheated in our team’s dunk contest,” said Barnes. “So I guess I just need to be the dunk champion in the season.”
The T-Birds and the Flames will compete once more on Monday at 12:00 p.m. in the America First Event Center. The game can be seen live on PlutoTV channel 1055.
Story by: Kelton Jacobsen
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics Strategic Communications Department