Men’s basketball falls short in season-opening thriller

The Southern Utah University men’s basketball team kicked off their 2023-24 campaign by taking on California State University, Bakersfield. 

The Thunderbirds fought back after being down by double-digits midway through the second half. After SUU took the lead with 27 seconds left, CSUB senior guard Kaleb Higgins drained a pair of free throws with 0.8 seconds left to give the Roadrunners a 73-72 victory.

First half
SUU started off well, scoring the game’s first six points. The Roadrunners stayed right with them due to a huge first-half contribution from Higgins, who poured in 15 points. CSUB led by five with just over a minute left before the Thunderbirds pulled off a 7-0 run capped off by a Braden Housley three-pointer to put SUU ahead 36-34 headed into the break. 

Second half
The Roadrunners had a much better start to the second half. They outscored the Thunderbirds 23-16 through the first 10 minutes of the half. CSUB led for 19 of the 20 minutes. SUU retook the lead after junior Dom Ford hit a fadeaway three from the corner to put the Thunderbirds up 72-71 with just 27 seconds left.

Higgins caught an inbound pass with just one second remaining, put up a tough shot  from mid-range and missed, but he was fouled on the shot by SUU’s Parsa Fallah. Higgins went on to hit both free throws, and Southern Utah was unable to convert the three-quarter court shot as time expired. The Roadrunners took the win 73-72.

Key statistics
As a team, SUU shot just 24/70, 34.2% from the field and 9/26, 34.6% from three.
The Roadrunners tallied 17 offensive rebounds.
Southern Utah shot just 15/23 from the free throw line.
The Thunderbirds were led by Housley. The redshirt freshman had 22 points, six rebounds and three assists while shooting 7/16 from the floor.
Higgins scored 27 points and shot 11/23 from the field.

What’s next?
The Thunderbirds, now 0-1 on the season, will have their home-opener on Thursday, Nov. 9, at 6:30 p.m. against Life Pacific University. The game can also be streamed on ESPN+.

Author: Brig Pyfer
Photographer: Anden Garfield
Editor: Anden Garfield