Over the holiday weekend, the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds traveled to Laie, Hawaii, for the North Shore Classic. In the first game of the tournament, the Thunderbirds fell to the Texas State University Bobcats 78-65.
Their next matchup featured the Sacramento State Hornets, who they have seen a lot in the Big Sky Conference. In a bounce-back game, the Thunderbirds beat the Hornets 91-87 in double overtime. After the tournament, the team has started the season off with a 4-3 record.
Big Sky battles
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m., the Thunderbirds will host the Montana State University Bobcats, who won the Big Sky conference tournament last year. The two teams have played each other 28 times, and just six of those games have resulted in a Thunderbird victory.
The Bobcats have started their season with a 3-5 record that places them fifth in the BSC. Junior guard RaeQuan Battle has averaged a team-high 17.1 points per game in the Bobcats’ eight matchups this season.
Another key player for the Bobcats is senior forward Jubrile Belo from London, England. He is averaging a team-high six rebounds per game while adding nearly 13 points per game on the offensive end.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, the Thunderbirds will head to Pocatello, Idaho, to face yet another BSC opponent: the Idaho State University Bengals. The Bengals have struggled during their 1-6 start and will see more of the same, as the Thunderbirds have won 22 out of 35 matchups against the team.
Bengals sophomore guard Miguel Tomley leads the team with 14 points and 2.7 assists per game. He is shooting an efficient 36.8% from beyond the arc and 42.7% from the field.
Jared Rodriguez is tied for the most rebounds per game with 5.1 and has been a contributor on defense with 1.6 steals per game. The senior forward is also averaging 11.4 points per game and has made 43.5% shots from the field.
Leaders for the Thunderbirds
Senior guard Tevian Jones is averaging 21.5 points per game while shooting 35.7% from beyond the arc. He has also added 4.3 rebounds per game and 1.5 steals per game for the Thunderbirds’ greedy defense.
Another senior that has been playing great to start the season is Maizen Fausett. The forward is averaging 11.1 points per game and has shot a scorching 41.7% from three. He also leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game, and is tied in steals per game with 2.1.
Sophomore center Jason Spurgin is averaging 11 points per game and is shooting 61.5% from the field. He also is leading the team in blocks with one per game and is bringing in five rebounds per game.
A new face that has been making a big impact on defense is sophomore guard Drake Allen. He is tied with Fausett for the most steals per game, and his .7 blocks per game puts him right behind Spurgin’s team-leading one block per game. London is shooting 54.8% from the field while putting up 8.1 points per game and leads the team with 3.1 assists a game.
Harrison Butler has been a do-it-all guy in the starting five for head coach Todd Simon. The senior guard averages 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, six rebounds and 10.4 points in the Thunderbirds’ seven games.
Keys to victory
Limiting turnovers will be important as the Thunderbirds are averaging 13.1 per game but have forced 19 per game. A majority of the teams forced turnovers come from their 11.6 steals per game
Bench play has been reliable for coach Simon, and more of the same can be expected. Freshman guard Martel Williams is averaging 6.2 points and three rebounds per game. A spark plug off the bench is graduate student Cameron Healy and his seven points per game. Freshman center Parsa Fallah has been a great backup to Spurgin; he is averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Thunderbird opponents are held to 72.3 points per game by the Thunderbirds’ 92.4 points. This average difference of 20.1 points places them sixth in the nation in scoring.
Article by: Chevy Blackburn
Photos by: SUU Athletics