Southern Utah University men’s basketball team opened their season on Nov. 9 at home against Bethesda University. They have played every game on the road since then and are currently riding a four-game win streak. On Wednesday, Dec. 8, the Thunderbirds will return to Cedar City for a matchup against Utah Valley University.
The game is a big deal for both schools as SUU will be joining UVU in the Western Athletic Conference beginning next season. On top of that, the Wolverines are red-hot and have won their past seven games including an overtime win over Brigham Young University.
The Wolverines will be fresh and well-rested coming into this one. A cancelled game against Yellowstone Christian College means UVU has not played since beating BYU on Dec. 1.
Of their seven wins, four of them have come in overtime — showing a very resilient team. The Wolverines have averaged 76.8 points per game on 46% shooting from the field. Center Fardaws Aimaq leads the team in scoring as he averages 20.8 points per game on over 50% shooting. Aimaq also leads the Wolverines with 14.8 rebounds per game. No other player on the team averages over five.
Last time out
The Thunderbirds are enjoying a 2-0 start to conference play after wins over Eastern Washington University and the University of Idaho. On Saturday’s win against the Vandals, senior guard Dre Marin led SUU in scoring with 19 points in 39 minutes of action. Senior forward Maizen Fausett also had an impressive day with 15 points and seven offensive rebounds.
Keys to victory
Control the glass/limit Aimaq’s impact
The number one key to this game is to limit Aimaq’s impact all around. The Thunderbirds cannot allow him to grab offensive rebounds and create more opportunities to score. It is a tall task for a team that has struggled to defend talented bigs, but Aimaq is undoubtedly UVU’s X-factor in this game.
Big game from Fausett
While he may not always have big games statistically, Fausett’s success is vital for Southern Utah. He does so much of the dirty work that goes unnoticed like fighting for loose balls, scrapping for rebounds and always coming up big when asked. Given the struggles SUU’s centers had against Hunter Schofield from Dixie State University, Fausett could be asked to defend Aimaq in the paint. This game will be a big test for Fausett but he has every skill needed to pull this one off.
Strong performance from the bench unit
We know that this SUU roster has a lot of talented players, a point that has been hammered all season long. Marin played 40 minutes on Dec. 2’s game and 39 minutes on Dec. 4’s game. Guard John Knight III also played 40 minutes against Eastern Washington and over 30 against the Vandals. The last thing Head Coach Todd Simon wants is for his best players to be burnt out so he needs a big game from the bench unit. Harrison Butler, Nick Fleming, Dee Barnes, Aanen Moody and Malik Muhammed need to be on their A-game come Wednesday night.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at the America First Event Center. The game can also be streamed on ESPN+.
Article By: Christian Esparza
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics