FACTS & STATS: Site: Centrum Arena (5,300) -- Cedar City, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: Sacramento State 7-2. Southern Utah 6-3. Away Record: Sacramento State 3-6, Southern Utah 1-7. Neutral Record: Sacramento State 0-0, Southern Utah 0-2. Conference Record: Sacramento State 5-5, Southern Utah 5-5. Series Record: Southern Utah leads, 13-7.
GAMES NOTES: Two teams looking to build on consecutive wins will match up on Thursday when the Southern Utah Thunderbirds collide with the Sacramento State Hornets for a Big Sky Conference battle at Centrum Arena.
Wins over North Dakota (67-58) and Northern Colorado (79-72) in its last two games has Sacramento State boasting its first win streak since the end of November. As the span between winning streaks might indicate the Hornets have struggled this season with consistency at 10-8 overall. However the Hornets have been competitive in league play with a mark of 5-5 in the Big Sky. Sacramento State will play its next three games at home beginning Monday against Northern Arizona.
Southern Utah followed up a 76-63 win over Portland State last Thursday with a 69-55 victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday. Like Sacramento State, winning streaks have been hard to come by for the Thunderbirds who have won back-to-back games only twice this season, while earning a 7-12 overall record. Southern Utah has also fought to the middle of the pack in the Big Sky at an even 5-5 in conference play. Southern Utah wraps up this four-game homestand against Northern Arizona on Saturday.
These teams also met earlier this month with Sacramento State posting a 64-59 victory at the Nest. The Hornets still trail the all-time series with seven wins in 20 total matchups.
Sacramento State's play in the second half is what carried it over Northern Colorado. The Hornets shot at a 57.7 percent rate in the final 20 minutes and also hit 6-of-9 shots from beyond the arc to rally from a 3-point deficit at halftime.
Mikh McKinney led four players in double figures with a season-high 26 points in the win. The 6-foot-1 guard (13.2 ppg) is also one of four players averaging in double figures for the season for Sacramento State. John Dickson (!3.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has been the most productive to this point but Dylan Garrity (12.0 ppg, 5.3 apg) and Konner Veteto (11.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) have also contributed well. Garrity was slowed to seven points against Northern Colorado but even when he is not scoring Garrity, who leads the Big Sky in assists, has been valuable with his ability to pass the ball as he proved on Monday when he handed out nine assists. In all Sacramento State is near the middle of the conference both in overall scoring (68.4 ppg, fifth) and field goal percentage (sixth).
Southern Utah also turned it on in the second half to erase a halftime deficit in its win over Eastern Washington. The Thunderbirds shot 53.6 percent in the final 20 minutes after failing to eclipse 34 percent in the first period. The Thunderbirds also had a 44-38 edge on the boards in the win.
Having the edge on the boards has been a strength for Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds rank at the very top of the Big Sky on the boards (38 rpg). The rest of their production has been wanting though. The Thunderbirds are just the 10th best scoring (65.8 ppg) and the eighth best shooting (.421 FG percentage) team in the conference while letting up 70.7 points per game on the defensive end. Although they lack a ton of depth in the scoring department the Thunderbirds are luck to have two of the best offensive weapons in the conference. Jackson Stevenett (16.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Damon Heuir (15.6 ppg) have each been putting up strong numbers in that category, while each ranks among the top five scorers in the conference.
It wasn't as if Sacramento State dominated in its win over Southern Utah earlier this season. Now that Southern Utah is back on its home floor the Thunderbirds should able to get a bit of revenge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Utah 68, Sacramento State 65
01/31 10:36:17 ET
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