The Southern Utah University men’s basketball team is preparing for a pivotal conference and in-state rivalry game against the Utah Valley University Wolverines.
A look at the Thunderbirds
Southern Utah enters Thursday’s Western Athletic Conference matchup with a 14-7 overall record and a 6-2 conference record.
The Thunderbirds’ offensive control places them second in the nation in scoring with an average 86 points per game. For both free throw attempts and free throws made per game, they hold space in the top 10. In other national rankings, SUU sits at 26th in field goal percentage, 31st in effective field goal percentage and 17th in scoring margin.
Senior Tevian Jones leads the team in scoring with an average 19.6 points per game, which ranks him nationally in the top 30 both in scoring and points per game. Along with Jones, the Thunderbird offense has been enhanced by the excellent passing skills of sophomore guard Drake Allen, who leads the team in assists and averages 3.5 per game.
The Southern Utah defense is nothing to take lightly. The Thunderbirds are ranked 16th nationally in defensive rebounds per game and sit in the top 50 for both steals and turnovers forced per game.
Jason Spurgin has been a huge influence in the paint for the Thunderbirds. The sophomore center is tied for 40th in the nation in blocks with 35 on the season and is third on the team in rebounds.
The team’s rebound leader is senior guard Harrison Butler with an average of 6.5 per game. He has hauled in 136 rebounds, and 118 of those rebounds have been on the defensive side of the glass.
A look at the Wolverines
The Utah Valley Wolverines enter the matchup 16-5 on the season and 7-1 in conference play. The Wolverines have one of the best records in the country and are 33rd in win percentage with 76.2%.
Utah Valley is a well-balanced team and is nationally ranked in numerous categories. Their defense is one of the best in the country, placing them at first in blocks with 137, fourth in defensive rebounds per game and 15th in field goal percentage defense. They hold their opponents to 38.9% from the field, and their average 16.1 assists per game puts them at 27th.
Aziz Bandaogo leads the team in blocks and rebounds. While he ranks in the national top ten for both categories, he holds an additional spot as ninth in double-doubles with 10 in 21 games. Before playing college basketball, the Senegal native came from the NBA Academy Africa and played against some of the best amateur international talent.
Junior Justin Harmon leads the Wolverines in scoring, averaging 13.8 per game. Not too far behind is senior Trey Woodbury, who averages 13.4 and leads the team in assists with 94 on the season.
The Thunderbirds have the all-time edge over the Wolverines, leading the series 5-4. Last time out, the Thunderbirds won a 60-56 thriller over Utah Valley on Dec. 8, 2021. This is the first time the two programs will meet as conference rivals and will have one more match later in the season.
Southern Utah will face Utah Valley University on Thursday, Jan. 26, with tip-off at 7 p.m. The game will be held at the America First Event Center and will be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
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