Southern Utah University men’s basketball team will wrap up Western Athletic Conference play this week. They will face the Grand Canyon University Antelopes, which will be followed by a game against the California Baptist University Lancers for senior night. Both games will be in the America First Event Center.
This week’s wins and losses will decide the four teams that get a first-round bye for the WAC tournament in Las Vegas. SUU must win one game to secure a first-round bye in the tournament.
SUU has an overall record of 19-10 and an 11-5 conference record, which places them third in the WAC Resume Seeding System Standings. Offensively, The Thunderbirds are seventh in the nation for points per game with 83.3. This is in large part due to senior guard Tevian Jones’ 18.3 points per game, but he is just one of four Thunderbirds to score in double figures. Close behind him are fifth-year seniors Maizen Fausett and Harrison Butler. Per game, Fausett adds 11.8 points while Butler contributes 11 points, a team-high 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
Sophomore guard Drake Allen has emerged as an offensive threat for head coach Todd Simon. Allen makes 41.4% of his three-point attempts, second to senior guard Dee Barnes at 41.5%. Last week, Barnes had a career-high 20 points against the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Defensively, the Thunderbirds average nearly eight steals per game along with 3.3 blocks. Allen, Jones, Fausett and Butler all average over one steal per game. Sophomore center Jason Spurgin locks down the paint for SUU. He averages 1.6 blocks per game and is among the best in the WAC.
The Antelopes shoot 45.1% from the field and make 37% of their three-point attempts. This helps GCU score 74.3 points per game, which is 8.7 more points than they allow. They will have to limit their 12.4 turnovers per game against SUU, who is tied for 22nd in the nation for fast break points per game. The Antelopes are 18-11 overall and 9-7 in WAC play. This places them sixth in the WAC Resume Seeding System Standings.
GCU has four players scoring in double figures. Leading the way is sophomore Ray Harrison with 16.8 points per game and a team-high 3.2 assists. Following him is redshirt junior Gabe McGolthan with 11.7 points per game and a team-high 8.1 rebounds. GCU’s sharpshooter is Chance McMillian, who is averaging 10.5 points per game on 44.2% three-point shooting.
Defensively, the Antelopes only force five steals per game and 3.5 blocks per game. Junior Jovan Blacksher Jr. averages a team-high 1.5 steals, while redshirt freshman Kobe Knox averages the most blocks with 0.8 per game.
Last time out, CBU fought till the final buzzer, but a missed shot from sophomore Taran Armstrong did not fall as the game came to an end. The Lancers shoot nearly 43% from the field and make 33% of their three-point attempts. This helps CBU score nearly 70 points per game and only allow their opponents 64.8 points per game. The Lancers are 15-14 overall and have a 7-9 conference record. They are ranked eighth in the WAC Resume Seeding System Standings.
Armstrong is the only Lancer scoring in double digits with 11.2 points per game. He is averaging a team-high 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds per contest. Graduate student Riley Battin is putting up nearly 10 points per game and is second on the team in rebounds with 5.7.
Defensively, the Lancers take the ball away 4.5 times and eliminate 3.4 shots per game. CBU does commit more turnovers than they force, which will be great for SUU’s nationally ranked fast break offense.
CBU will host UTRGV on Wednesday, Mar. 1, before their matchup against the Thunderbirds.
SUU will start their week off against Grand Canyon University on Wednesday, Mar. 1, at 7 p.m. MST. Their matchup against California Baptist University will be on Friday, Mar. 3, at 7 p.m. MST. Both games will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Story by Chevy Blackburn
Photos courtesy of Anden Garfield