GAME NOTES: Two teams battle for their first Big Sky Conference win of the season, as the Southern Utah Thunderbirds host the Sacramento State Hornets at the Centrum on Saturday night.
The Thunderbirds are still waiting to score their first win of the season versus another program from the Division I level. The lone victory thus far in 2013-14 came in the opener against Arizona Christian (85-78), and since then it has been all downhill. Southern Utah last took the floor a week ago when it bowed to Northern Colorado on the road in an ugly 91-55 final.
The Thunderbirds have now dropped 10 straight decisions.
As for the Hornets, they have hit a rough patch in their schedule as well, losing three straight and four of the last five overall. The team is finishing up a four-game road trip with this meeting and last played two nights ago in a 75-65 setback versus Northern Arizona. Sacramento is now only 1-7 in true road dates this season.
SUU leads the all-time series by a count of 14-7, having won eight of the 10 previous matchups played at home.
The Hornets had no answers as they allowed Northern Arizona to light up the scoreboard from 3-point range (11-of-16) on Thursday night, en route to the 10-point decision in Flagstaff. Sacramento State did nail 10-of-18 out on the perimeter, but at the same time was outscored at the free-throw line by a 16-5 margin. Mikh McKinney scored a team-best 15 points and handed out six assists, followed by Dylan Garrity with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting beyond the arc.
On a team that is producing a meager 63.4 ppg, McKinney leads the way with his 13.7 ppg, not to mention pacing the group with 39 assists as well. Garrity checks in with another 11.8 ppg and like McKinney is also keen on keeping his teammates involved in the action with his 37 dishes. Between the two they've knocked down 45 3-point baskets, better than half the team's 82 total conversions at the moment.
The Southern Utah defense was virtually non-existent last weekend as it allowed UNC to connect on 62.0 percent of its shots from the floor, which included a 7-of-15 effort behind the 3-point line during the messy rout. The Thunderbirds made good on only 33.3 percent from the field in the first half and then showed signs of life after the break (.526), but by then it was too late. Eric Rippetoe was the only player to score in double figures for the visitors as he tallied 10 points in 11 minutes off the bench.
While the Hornets may consider their offense to be lackluster, there is no getting around the fact that SUU is by far one of the weakest squads in the entire nation with just 56.4 ppg. The team is shooting a woeful 36.7 percent from the floor over 11 outings and only Trey Kennedy is putting up double figures (10.9 ppg) on the average. The squad is being crushed on the glass by 10.8 rpg and is allowing opponents to generate 78.1 ppg.
While this may be one of the only games this season that the Thunderbirds have a realistic chance of winning, the fact remains that SUU is just dismal at both ends of the floor.
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