“Right now I’m extremely excited for our guys, I’m extremely pleased with our effort tonight and with our entire team’s progress,” stated SUU head coach Nick Robinson. “A.J. Hess had to play the power forward, comes up with ten rebounds. Casey did a nice job, was close to a double-double. We had four guys in double figures, and guys made free throws. That was big for us.”
North Dakota led 6-2 early on before scores from Trey Kennedy and Casey Oliverson evened the count up. Southern Utah then used a 10-2 run late in the half to build a six-point advantage. Cal Hanks got things started with a layup and Juwan Major capped it off by throwing down a dunk over a defender to set the count at 29-23.
The Thunderbirds closed the half with A.J. Hess drawing contact on a layup for a basket and a foul to take a 32-28 advantage into the break.
Oliverson started the second half with a dunk and Southern Utah took a nine-point lead as he dropped in a layup two minutes later. Troy Huff knocked down a three to bring North Dakota back within five, but a quick 8-3 run had the Thunderbirds up by ten at 48-38.
The Thunderbirds seized momentum halfway through the second period after Marshall found Major underneath the rim for a layup, got a score inside of his own off a block by Oliverson and then stole an inbounds pass and earned a trip to the foul line to for two to push the difference to 59-44. The 6-0 Southern Utah run took just 34 seconds.
North Dakota narrowed the margin to ten with back-to-back three point plays for Jamal Webb and Alonzo Traylor, but Race Parsons knocked down a 3-pointer to put Southern Utah up 64-51 with five minutes left.
The visitors battled back by outscoring SUU 12-4 over the next three minutes to pull within three at 66-63. The Thunderbirds pushed their advantage back to seven from the foul line with under a minute to go, but North Dakota rallied once again to trail by just two after a layup by Webb with 21 seconds remaining.
Southern Utah held on from there however as Parsons made a key layup and finished with two more at the foul line to deliver the 77-71 win for the Thunderbirds.
“The last six minutes were a little bit of an adventure,” commented Robinson. “North Dakota’s pressure has given us problems in the past, I felt like we were prepared for it, but weren’t as strong with the basketball as we needed to be.”
Kennedy led four Southern Utah players in the double figures with 16 points. Oliverson finished with 11, Major turned in 13 and Hanks improved his career-high with another 13 points. Hess also recorded his first ten-rebound performance as a Thunderbird. Webb paced UND with 18.
SUU held its opponent to 35.7 percent shooting and scored 21 points off of turnovers. The Thunderbirds held a 44-34 advantage on points in the paint, and gave up a 35-36 rebound edge to North Dakota.
Southern Utah concludes its season this Saturday by hosting Northern Colorado at 5:00 p.m. Coverage of the game is available online at www.suutbirds.com.