The Southern Utah University men’s basketball team went 1-1 this week. Southern Utah won their first game versus the Lancers of California Baptist University on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The Thunderbirds were not as lucky in their second game, losing to in-state rival Utah Tech University on Saturday, Feb. 4.
The Thunderbirds now have a 16-8 overall record and 8-3 record in Western Athletic Conference play.
SUU versus California Baptist University
The first half was a competitive affair. Southern Utah jumped to an early 6-3 lead around the 17-minute mark due to a layup by sophomore Jason Spurgin. The Lancers responded with a 7-0 run headlined by sophomore Taran Armstrong. Armstrong finished the game with a career-high 25 points and shot 83% from the field.
The Thunderbirds responded and tied the game at 10 two minutes later thanks to a free throw by redshirt freshman Parsa Fallah. The rest of the first half was back and forth as both teams scored bucket after bucket. Crucial points from sophomore Drake Allen and senior Maizen Fausett gave the Thunderbirds a 42-38 lead going into halftime. Allen finished with 15 points, while Fausett scored 10 points and corralled seven rebounds.
The Thunderbirds shot 61% from the field in the first half.
Allen made a layup to put the Thunderbirds up by six to start the final half. Southern Utah kept a close lead through the early stages of the second half. Graduate guard Riley Batten made a crucial three-pointer for the Lancers to tie the game at 50.
Both teams traded the lead until Spurgin swung the momentum in favor of the Thunderbirds with two huge dunks. Senior Harrison Butler decided to join the trend, slamming home the ball and giving Southern Utah a 65-59 lead. Armstrong responded with a layup and cut the Thunderbird lead to four. On the next drive, senior Tevian Jones hit a crucial three-pointer, and Southern Utah led 68-61. Jones scored 12 points and eight rebounds.
California Baptist would not give up, cutting the Thunderbird lead to two with three minutes left in regulation. Redshirt sophomore Hunter Goodrick tied it for the Lancers with two minutes left. CBU hit two free throws around the one minute mark to lead 71-69. All season the Thunderbirds have been known to play until the final whistle blows, and that is exactly what they did. Two crucial buckets from Jones put the Thunderbirds up 72-71 with 54 seconds left.
The final minute went down to the wire, and hope seemed to be lost at three seconds left when a foul was called on Fausett. Goodrick went to the line for the Lancers and missed both free throws; Spurgin grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.1 seconds left. Sprugin missed the free throw, and CBU speedily got the rebound and called a timeout. The Lancers inbounded the ball on their own side of the court with 0.9 seconds left.
California Baptist heaved the ball down the court to Armstrong, who put up a desperation shot that almost went in but bounced off the front rim. Southern Utah held on for the 72-71 win.
SUU versus Utah Tech University
Utah Tech started strong, shooting 60% from the field and 55% from the three-point line. The Trailblazers jumped to an early lead, but the Thunderbirds trailed by two around the 15-minute mark after a layup from sophomore Drake Allen. Allen finished with 13 points and was 5-5 from the field and 2-2 from the three-point line. After the bucket from Allen, the Trailblazers went on a huge run to take a double-digit lead.
Utah Tech’s Cameron Gooden led the team in scoring with 26 points and hit a crucial three-pointer to bring the score to 36-19 around the seven minute mark. The Trailblazers entered halftime with a 17-point lead over the Thunderbirds, 47-30.
Southern Utah shot 33% from the field and 28% from the three-point stripe in the first half.
The Thunderbirds put all of their effort on the court in the last half. Utah Tech started to pull away after a dunk by Tanner Christensen, leading 52-30. Southern Utah responded with a 13-0 run, bringing Utah Tech’s lead to single digits after a three-pointer from graduate student Cameron Healy. Healy scored 12 out of 13 attempted points during the run and was 4-7 from three-point land.
The rest of the game was a back-and-forth battle with neither giving an inch. Senior Mazien Fausett made a crucial layup at the 14-minute mark to bring the Thunderbirds within five; Utah Tech led 54-49. Fausett led the Thunderbirds in scoring with 21 points.
A couple of plays later, Spurgin did the same, bringing the Trailblazers’ lead down to five. Spurgin earned another double-double, finishing with 11 points and ten rebounds. Utah Tech held off multiple pushes from the Thunderbird offense in the late second half and walked away with a 86-79 win.
The Thunderbirds will be back at home on Thursday, Feb. 9, to take on Tarleton State University. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. MST. This is the final time the teams will face off in the regular season.
The game will be held at the America First Event Center and will be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics