Southern Utah (1-18) at Northern Arizona (9-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 8, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walkup Skydome (16,230) -- Flagstaff, Arizona. Television: None. Home Record: SUU 1-6, NAU 6-2. Away Record: SUU 0-12, NAU 3-9. Neutral Record: SUU 0-0, NAU 0-2. Conference Record: SUU 0-10, NAU 6-5. Series Record: Northern Arizona leads, 14-10.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks return home to Walkup Skydome on Saturday night for a Big Sky Conference bout with the struggling Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
SUU has been stuck in a prolonged state of futility, as it has lost 18 straight games, with its only triumph coming against NAIA opponent Arizona Christian in its season opener, 85-78. The Thunderbirds had a great opportunity to snap out of their slide last Saturday at home versus Montana State, but they fell on the wrong end of a 54-52 decision to dip to 0-10 in the Big Sky.
While NAU's struggles have been nowhere near as bad as SUU's, it is still in the midst of a disappointing 9-13 campaign. The Lumberjacks started their conference slate of games an impressive 5-1, but since then they have dropped four of five, most recently falling at Sacramento State on Thursday night, 87-70.
The Lumberjacks lead the all-time series with the Thunderbirds, 14-10, which includes a dominating 70-36 triumph on the road back on Jan. 13.
The Thunderbirds built a lead as large as 11 late in the first half of their most recent game, but after battling through 10 ties and five lead changes, they ultimately fell on the wrong end of a heartbreaking two-point loss as their unfortunate stretch continued. Although they outshot Montana State from the field, 45.5 percent to 35.8 percent, were only 2-of-12 from 3-point range and were plagued by a game-high 20 turnovers. A.J. Hess as the lone player to net in double figures with 14 points.
Unsurprisingly, SUU's season numbers have been dreadful, as its scoring offense (56.3 ppg) is the worst in the nation while its scoring (-18.0) and rebounding (-9.0) margins also rank near the bottom of Division I. The team's only saving grace is its solid free-throw percentage (.719), but it only takes 17.6 attempts per game. Trey Kennedy (10.6 ppg) and Hess (9.3 ppg) are the only scorers of note, although both, predictably, shoot less than 39 percent from the field.
The Lumberjacks never held a lead in their bout with Sacramento State earlier in the week, as they fell behind by seven at intermission before ultimately losing by 17. They were stellar from the field, shooting 53.5 percent, but they lost several possessions due to 20 turnovers and allowed the opposition to make just shy of 60 percent of its shots overall. Leading the way in the losing effort was Aaseem Dixon (14 points), Gaellan Bewernick (13) and Quinton Upshur (12).
While NAU shoots an impressive 45.8 percent from the field this season, that shooting success has resulted in only 68.2 ppg. Defensively, it allows 70.1 ppg on 45.7 percent shooting, and it consistently loses the turnover battle (-1.3). Upshur is the catalyst with 15.5 ppg while making 38 percent of his 3- pointers. Max Jacobsen (13.0 ppg) drains 58.5 percent of his tries from the floor, while Dixon (12.7 ppg) and Bewernick (7.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) have also been solid.
Even with NAU's inconsistencies this season, it has still performed well enough on its home floor (6-2) to trust that it can take care of business against the reeling Thunderbirds.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Arizona 75, Southern Utah 62
02/08 10:27:43 ET