GAME NOTES: The seemingly never-ending search for their first win over a Division I program in 2013-14 continues for Southern Utah, as the Thunderbirds hit the hardwood in California against the Sacramento State Hornets in Big Sky Conference action.
While it is true that SUU has posted a victory this season, that 85-78 decision in the opener against Arizona Christian doesn't carry all that much weight when you consider that the opposition is an NAIA squad. Southern Utah was in that position once a long time ago as well, but now the Thunderbirds are being held to a higher standard in the Big Sky.
Unfortunately, the Thunderbirds are coming dangerously close going an entire year without a D-I victory, the last of which was a narrow 73-72 final versus Cal State Northridge back on Feb. 23, 2013. If you were looking for the last conference win for SUU, that would be an 81-79 overtime decision versus Idaho State on Feb. 7, 2013.
Over the weekend, the T'birds saw their overall skid reach 19 in a row as they bowed to Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, 64-57.
Meanwhile, the story is not quite as compelling for the Hornets who are 9-11 on the campaign and 5-6 in conference. However, Sacramento State has won three straight during what is a four-game homestand that finishes up tonight. Last week the Hornets captured a convincing 87-70 win over Northern Arizona.
The Hornets won the first meeting of the season in Cedar City by a score of 77-49 last month, which means the all-time series now numbers 14-8 in favor of Southern Utah.
Things were looking good for the Thunderbirds against NAU over the weekend as they shot 55.0 percent from the floor in the first half, but the squad ended up hitting only 3-of-12 beyond the arc and a disappointing 6-of-14 at the free-throw line in what turned into a seven-point final at the Walkup Skydome. As it turned out, only John Marshall managed to score in double figures for the visitors with his 10 points, adding three steals in yet another setback for the program.
Marshall, the fourth different leading scorer in as many games, is responsible for just 4.1 ppg as he is one of 11 players to have been inserted into the starting lineup at one point or another. Trey Kennedy is the only double-digit scorer for the group at this stage with his 10.4 ppg, but he has converted a mere 38.1 percent from the field and 27.3 percent behind the 3-pointy line. As a group, the Thunderbirds are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country (56.3 ppg) and have one of the worst scoring margins (minus-17.5 ppg).
Mikh McKinney erupted for 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field for the Hornets as they dismissed Northern Arizona last week at home. Zach Mills and Dreon Barlett both added 15 points for the hosts, combining to shoot 4- of-5 beyond the arc, while Dylan Garrity checked in with seven points and a game-high 10 assists, his total in the latter category twice as many as the Lumberjacks logged in the decision.
One of three players to have started every game for the Hornets, McKinney is responsible for 15.8 ppg as he shoot 48.9 percent from the floor, followed by Garrity who complements his 13.2 ppg with 3.6 apg as well. Oddly enough, McKinney is actually ahead of Garrity in the passing department with 3.8 apg which means the duo accounts for the bulk of the unit's 13.0 apg at the moment.
It has now been more than a year since the Thunderbirds posted a road win, so to expect anything different tonight would be a bit foolish.
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