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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Centrum Arena (5,300) -- Cedar City, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: NAU 4-4. Southern Utah 7-3. Away Record: NAU 2-8, Southern Utah 1-7. Neutral Record: NAU 1-1, Southern Utah 0-2. Conference Record: NAU 4-6, Southern Utah 6-5. Series Record: NAU leads, 13-3.
GAMES NOTES: The Southern Utah Thunderbirds will hope for a sweep to wrap up their four-game homestand when they bring in the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks for a Big Sky Conference bout at Centrum Arena Saturday night.
The Lumberjacks have had a week off to recover from a heartbreaking 81-79 loss to North Dakota. The setback ended a short two-game winning streak for the Lumberjacks who had not won back-to-back games all season. Northern Arizona is now 7-13 overall while earning a mark of 4-6 in league play. In road contests the Lumberjacks have struggled with eight losses in 10 trips. A road test against Sacramento State awaits the Lumberjacks after this contest.
The Thunderbirds limped into the current homestand on a four-game losing streak. However they have risen up and captured wins in each of the first three contests, including a 79-67 victory over Sacramento State. Overall Southern Utah hasn't been much better than Northern Arizona at just 8-12 overall and 6-5 in league play. At home the Thunderbirds are 7-3 but next up they hit the road for four straight games.
When these teams met as league foes for the first time this season Southern Utah came away with the 90-77 victory. It was the first win in the last five meetings for the Thunderbirds who still trail the all-time series, 13-3.
A layup from North Dakota's Troy Huff with three seconds left sank Northern Arizona last Saturday. The Lumberjacks let an 11-point lead at halftime slip away in the contest as they picked up just nine field goals in the second half while allowing North Dakota to shoot 63 percent in the final 20 minutes.
Once again Gabe Rogers (16.4 ppg) felt the bulk of the scoring responsibility shift to him in the loss as he poured in a game-high 35 points, 18 of which he scored in the second half. Rogers is the second leading scorer in the Big Sky. Rogers isn't totally alone though with Dewayne Russell (15.7 ppg) also ranking in the top five. However the Lumberjacks lack much punch on offense after that with only Max Jacobsen (8.6 ppg) scoring more than 6.5 points per game. In all the Lumberjacks are scoring just 66.7 points per game while allowing opponents to net 76.2 while shooting at a 47.5 percent clip from the field.
Led by 28 points from Damon Heuir and 20 from Jackson Stevenett the Thunderbirds were able to rally from a 13-point deficit at halftime to top Sacramento State. The Thunderbirds hot 60 percent of their shots in the second half, while limiting the Hornets to just four field goals in that time.
The only duo in the conference scoring more than Rogers and Russell is Stevenett (16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Heuir (16.3 ppg). Each has the potential to erupt on the offensive end as the pair have combined for 10 games of at least 20 points this season. However like the Lumberjacks, there isn't much depth beyond those two. Wade Collie (8.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and Jayson Cheesman (7.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg) are the only two players available that score more than four points per game.
With the top two scoring duos in the conference going at it each of these squads will need big contributions from their supporting casts. Cheesman has the size to control the paint which could force the Lumberjacks to force up more jump shots than they may like.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Utah 72, Northern Arizona 67
02/02 10:46:25 ET
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