This week the Southern Utah University men’s basketball team will host the Sam Houston Bearkats and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, both Western Athletic Conference opponents.
Last time out, the Thunderbirds took a 74-72 win over Abilene Christian University. They are currently ranked third in the WAC with a 3-1 conference record and 11-6 overall record. Out of 13 teams, they are the No. 1 offensive team in the conference and the No. 12 defensive team. Right now, they are also the top scoring team in the country.
Senior guards Tevian Jones and Harrison Butler lead SUU in scoring with 19.9 and 12.5 points per game, respectively. They both shoot over 42% from the field. Sophomore guard Drake Allen, who is coming off his second double-double of the season, leads the team in assists with 51 through their 17 games. As a team, the Thunderbirds have a 47.8% field goal percentage and outscore their opponents by an average of 13.7 points.
While Southern Utah is not known for their defense, they hold opponents to a 43% field goal percentage and 73.5 points per game. Sophomore center Jason Spurgin guards the paint with his 6’11” figure, ranking third in the WAC in blocks with 28. SUU is a strong rebounding team, however, and outrebound their competition by an average of 6.3 rebounds per game. Butler and fifth-year forward Maizen Fausett lead the team in rebounds, averaging 6.8 and 6.2 each. They are both ranked in the top 10 in the WAC for rebounds per game.
The Bearkats are the top defensive team in the WAC and the sixth in the nation. They are also the No. 3 offensive team in the WAC. Their 2-2 conference record and 12-4 overall record place them sixth in the conference rankings.
Sam Houston has just two players averaging double-digit points per game. Senior guards Qua Grant and Donte Powers average 13.6 and 11.3, respectively. Grant is also the team leader in assists with 63. Collectively, the Bearkats shoot 46.8% from the field and 39.4% from three-point range.
The Bearkats hold their opponents to a 38% field goal percentage and a 29% three-point percentage. Competitors only score an average of 57.1 points against them. Sam Houston’s aggressive defense often leads to turnovers in their favor, as they collect 10 steals per game as a team. Grant leads both the team and the conference in the category with 2.25 steals per game.
In SUU’s first season in the WAC, this will be the first matchup between the teams.
Stephen F. Austin
Tied for first place in the WAC, the Lumberjacks have a 4-0 conference record and a 12-5 overall record. They are the No. 4 offensive team in the conference and No. 6 defensively.
The top scorers are sophomore forward Sadaidriene Hall and sophomore guard Latrell Jossell. Hall averages 13.5 points per game while shooting 60.2% from the field, which puts him 28th in the country and first in the conference for field goal percentage. Jossell averages 12.1 points and is particularly successful from long range, as shown by his 44.3% three-point percentage. Junior guard AJ Cajuste leads the team in assists with 75 and is No. 2 in the conference in total assists. As a team, SFA shoots 48.2% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc.
The Lumberjacks allow 66.1 points per game while forcing more turnovers than they give up. With 19 blocks through 17 games, junior forward Nana Antwi-Boasiako is the team’s leader. When it comes to steals, Cajuste has the team high with 27. Hall leads the team in rebounds by averaging 6.4 per game.
SFA will play against Utah Tech University on Jan. 12 before competing against SUU.
The Thunderbirds and the Lumberjacks met twice in 1991 and have not competed against each other since then. The Thunderbirds won both games and will look to continue their streak in their third matchup.
The Thunderbirds will play the Bearkats on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. MST, followed by their game against the Lumberjacks on Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. MST. Both games will take place in the America First Event Center in Cedar City and can be streamed on ESPN+.
Story and photos by: Anden Garfield