The Bears scored the first six field goals of the game to open up a 14-0 advantage before sophomore Casey Oliverson laid a shot in to put SUU on the board. The Thunderbirds were unable to connect on their first nine attempts from the field, but then scored two straight to bring the count to 15-4 with 12:56 remaining in the opening period.
“They came out the aggressor offensively as well as defensively, and we had a rough start,” stated Robinson. “It was 12-0 before we knew it and we had a hard time coming back from that. We got some good shots but they weren’t falling for us.”
A pair of free throws for California’s Jordan Matthews pushed the margin to 18 before A.J. Hess knocked down the Thunderbirds first 3-pointer of the night and Trey Kennedy added two points from the foul line to pull the score to 25-10.
Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace then hit back-to-back threes during an 8-0 run that stretched the Bears lead to 33-10. The Thunderbirds answered back with a pair of makes from the outside as Kennedy and A.J. Hess sank two-straight shots to cut the deficit to 37-19. Junior forward Cal Hanks added a free throw in the closing moments of the half and Southern Utah went into the break down 39-20.
The Thunderbirds started the second period with five quick points as Hess knocked down his second three and Kennedy got behind the defense for a one-handled slam that brought the score to 42-25. The two sides then traded baskets before Cal ran off nine unanswered to extend the advantage to 53-27.
Hess heated up in the closing minutes, hitting two more threes to bring his scoring total to a team-high 14 points, but the Bears continued to pull away and came out on top by a final count of 75-47.
“A.J. made some plays for us in the second half, made some shots which is good,” commented Robinson. “I thought Jayson had a lot of energy tonight, a couple of big-time offensive rebounds.”
Kennedy added another eight points for the Thunderbirds while Cheesman, Oliverson and Juwan Major each grabbed seven rebounds. Wallace led California with 15 points and Richard Solomon added another 14. SUU shot 22.2 percent from the field and was held to it lowest scoring total since a loss at Denver in December last year. The Bears went 23-54 from the field and hit 7-18 shots from behind the arc.
“There is a lot that we will need to learn from this and a lot that we need to improve on to be successful on both ends of the floor,” said Robinson. “Our staff will get back in the film room, get back on the court with our guys and hope to improve quite a bit as we move forward.”
Up next for the Thunderbirds is another home contest as UC Riverside is scheduled to visit Cedar City this Saturday. The game will tipoff at 7:30 p.m. following a matchup between the Southern Utah women and visiting Westminster. Coverage of SUU basketball is available online at www.suutbirds.com.