This week, the Southern Utah University men’s basketball team will compete against the Tarleton State University Texans and the Utah Valley University Wolverines. Both are conference competitors.
This past weekend, the Thunderbirds played against Utah Tech University, which resulted in a 86-79 loss for SUU. Following that, they are 8-3 in Western Athletic Conference play and 16-8 overall. Of the 13 teams in the WAC, SUU is the No. 1 offensive team and the No. 12 defensive team. They are also the No. 4 scoring offense in the country with their 84.8 points per game.
Fifth-year guard Tevian Jones leads the Thunderbirds in points with 18.8 per game. He shoots 42.3% from the field and 37.8% from three-point range. In his 23 games played, he has scored at least 20 points in 12 of them and he is currently the No. 3 scorer in the WAC. Sophomore guard Drake Allen sets up the offense with his 3.4 assists per game. The Thunderbirds shoot 47.8% as a team, including 34.3% from beyond the arc.
Averaging 1.6 blocks per game, sophomore center Jason Spurgin is fourth in the WAC in the category. He has 39 blocks in his 24 games played. Southern Utah is the second best rebounding team in the WAC. They chase down 39.29 per game, with Harrison Butler and Maizen Fausett leading the way. Butler chases down 6.8 while Fausett collects 6.5. Both fifth-year seniors are top 10 in the conference for rebounds per game.
The Texans are coming off a close 69-64 win against the University of Texas Arlington. The win improved their overall record to 13-11 and their conference record to 6-5. They are the No. 11 offensive team in the WAC and the No. 5 defensively.
Tarleton State is led offensively by sophomore guard Freddy Hicks, who averages 15.5 points per game. Lue Williams, a junior guard, also averages double digits for the Texans with 11.6. Williams is the team’s best long-range shooter and has a 41.9% three-point percentage. Graduate guard Daniel Shakur leads the team in assists with 66 total and 2.87 per game. Overall, Tarleton State shoots 45.6% from the field and 34% from three-point range.
The Texans hold their opponents to 67.5 points per game. They force 17.4 turnovers per game, putting them fourth in the conference. The team leader in steals is sophomore guard Shamir Bogues with 40 total. He is third in the WAC in the category. Tarleton State as a whole is also third in conference for total steals. Hicks leads the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game, but overall, the Texans are the No. 13 rebounding team in the WAC.
This will be the second time this season, and the second time overall, that the Thunderbirds and Texans will face off. On Jan. 5, the Texans defeated the Thunderbirds 68-65.
As the top team in the WAC, the Utah Valley Wolverines are 19-6 overall and 10-2 in conference play. They have the No. 4 offense in the conference and the No. 7 defense. UVU will be heading into Saturday’s game with a three-game winning streak.
Guards Justin Harmon, Trey Woodbury, and Le’Trey Darthard are all averaging about 13 points per game for the Wolverines. All are top 12 in the WAC. Sophomore center Aziz Bandaogo is just behind them with 11.6 and shoots an astounding 65.5% from the field. Woodbury is their most consistent three-point shooter, though, with a 41% shooting percentage from long range. Woodbury is also the team’s assist leader with 107 total and 4.3 per game, putting him fourth in the WAC. Together, the Wolverines shoot 45.7% from the field and 32.9% from three-point range.
Bandaogo leads the WAC in both rebounding and blocks. He collects 10.8 rebounds per game, which, accompanied by his points, means he averages a double-double. Through his 25 games, he has blocked opponents 72 times, averaging 2.9 per game. With his contribution, the Wolverines lead the WAC in blocks, with 6.42. No other team in the conference averages more than 3.54.
SUU and UVU have faced off 10 times between 2006 and now. UVU has won four, and SUU has won six, including their last matchup on Jan. 26.
The Thunderbirds and Texans will compete on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. MST in the America First Event Center. The game can be streamed on ESPN+ or on KSUB 590 AM/107.7 FM. Southern Utah will then head to the Utah Community Credit Union Center for their game against UVU on Feb. 11. It can be streamed on ESPN+.
Story and photos by: Anden Garfield