After a lights-out first half, the Southern Utah University men’s basketball team held on for the victory over the University of Texas at El Paso Miners 82-69 in the second round of The Basketball Classic.
The motto of “survive and advance” lives strong in the T-Bird squad. With SUU advancing to the quarterfinals of The Basketball Classic, the Thunderbirds will face the University of Portland Pilots on Saturday, March 26.
The start of the first half was very contested with both squads exchanging blows. Senior guard Nick Fleming made a layup at the 9:17 mark that led to a 12-0 run for the T-Birds to make it 31-18. Fleming led the team with a career-high 18 points and finished 7-11 from the field including four three-pointers.
At the break, Southern Utah led 40-29 over UTEP.
The second half was even more action packed. The Miners made a run at the Thunderbirds, closing the gap to seven off a three-pointer from Keonte Kennedy at the 9:30 mark. Kennedy finished with 15 points for the Miners.
SUU responded with fifth-year guard Dre Marin making a three-pointer to bring the Thunderbird lead back to 12. With the momentum, Southern Utah sealed the game in the closing moments with a Maizen Fausett jumper. The Thunderbirds’ hot shooting led to the victory, shooting 58.2% from the field and 43.5% from three.
Notable performers for SUU include Marin scoring 17, Jason Spurgin with 13 points and John Knight III with nine rebounds along with 12 points. Fausett made more history for the SUU men’s basketball program, surpassing the 700 career rebound mark.
With the win, SUU moves on to the quarterfinals of The Basketball Classic where they will host the University of Portland Pilots in the American First Events Center on Saturday, March 26. Tip-off is at 4 p.m. and the game can be streamed live on ESPN+.
Story by: Anthony Colasuono
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics