Last week the Southern Utah University men’s basketball team earned a 72-62 victory over Tarleton State University and took a 90-83 loss at Utah Valley University. Following the games, the Thunderbirds are 17-9 overall and 9-4 in Western Athletic Conference play. They are now third in the conference.
Versus Tarleton State
In a game where SUU debuted new jerseys honoring the blue and orange of the school’s days as the College of Southern Utah, SUU secured a win. Despite a slow start to the game, the Thunderbirds pulled out a 10-point win over the Texans. Tarleton State led for nearly the entirety of the first half and were up by six points going into halftime. It was not until there were just five minutes remaining on the clock that Southern Utah took the lead. They scored 17 points in those last five minutes as they took the game right from Tarleton State’s hands.
Drake Allen was the top scorer for the Thunderbirds, putting up 19 points. Harrison Butler followed closely behind with 17 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line. He also collected 11 rebounds to give him his fourth double-double of the season. On top of that, Butler dished out more assists than anyone on either team with six, just one short of his season high. As a team, SUU shot 50% from the field and 46.7% from three-point range in the game. However, the second half saw them shoot 77% from the field and 100% from beyond the arc.
Tarleton State had two players reach double digits when it came to points. Despite being heckled relentlessly by Thunderbird fans, Freddy Hicks scored 18 points, the team’s best. Daniel Shakur scored 12 and had a 57% field goal percentage. Hicks also led the Texans in rebounds, chasing down eight. The team had a 39.2% field goal percentage and 37.5% three-point percentage.
Since the loss, Tarleton State has taken a win against Utah Tech University. The Texans are now 14-12 overall and 7-6 in conference play, making them seventh in the WAC.
Versus Utah Valley
The matchup in Orem saw the top two teams in the WAC go head to head. In the high-scoring game, No. 1 Utah Valley came out on top. SUU had the lead just two separate times throughout the game, both occurring in the first five minutes. They went into halftime trailing by 15 points. The Thunderbirds managed to cut the Wolverines’ lead down to just two points with 15 minutes left in the game but ultimately took the seven-point loss.
Allen once again was Southern Utah’s top scorer, this time accompanied by Jason Spurgin. The duo put up 17 points each, and Spurgin shot 67% from the field. Maizen Fausett led the team in rebounds with 11, including four on the offensive side. Allen also picked up four steals, the most he has collected since November. The Thunderbirds had some trouble making shots but managed to put up 36 points in the paint. Collectively, they shot 40% from the field and 33% from three-point range.
The Wolverine offense relied heavily on Le’Tre Darthard, who scored a career-high 31 points. Sixteen of his points came from the free throw line, where he missed just one of his 17 attempts. He also had nine rebounds on the night. Tim Fuller was also a notable contributor, and he earned his third double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Aziz Bandaogo was a strong defensive presence for UVU and blocked the Thunderbirds three times throughout the game. As a team, Utah Valley had good ball movement, ending up with 18 total assists, 11 more than Southern Utah’s seven. A 42.4% field goal percentage and 24% three-point percentage also belonged to the Wolverines.
With the win, Utah Valley will stay at the top of the WAC standings. They are now 20-6 overall and 11-2 in conference play.
The Thunderbirds’ next game is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 17, as they take on their rivals of Utah Tech. The game will be in the America First Event Center at 7 p.m. MST.
Story and photos by: Anden Garfield