Southern Utah (1-24) at Montana State (13-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 27, 9:05 p.m. (ET).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Worthington Arena (7,250) -- Bozeman, Montana. Television: None. Home Record: SUU 1-10, MSU 8-5. Away Record: SUU 0-14, MSU 5-7. Neutral Record: SUU 0-0, MSU 0-2. Conference Record: SUU 0-16, MSU 8-8. Series Record: Montana State leads, 12-3.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Utah Thunderbirds have still not uncovered that elusive first Big Sky Conference win of the season, but they will again continue that search as they clash with the Montana State Bobcats at Worthington Arena in Bozeman tonight.
Not only is SUU winless in 16 league bouts in 2013-14, the team is also experiencing an excruciating 24-game losing streak overall. Since beating Arizona Christian, an NAIA competitor, in the season opener at home, the Thunderbirds have gone on to incredible lows and lost opportunities.
Last week, the Thunderbirds came up short against both Portland State (86-79) and Eastern Washington (85-74), which means the last victory against another Division I foe came on Feb. 23, 2013 versus Cal State Northridge by a single point (73-72). In terms of the last conference win, SUU has gone without one since slipping by Idaho State in overtime, 81-79, back on Feb. 7, 2013.
While the Thunderbirds have the bottom spot in the Big Sky standings all to themselves, Montana State is caught in a log jam with three other programs for sixth place with a record of 8-8. Since the league schedule began, the Bobcats have been inconsistent at best, most recently losing to Weber State last Saturday, 86-68, marking their second defeat in three outings.
MSU owns a convincing 12-3 edge in the all-time series with the Thunderbirds, although the Bobcats won the first meeting of the season earlier this month by just two points on the road, 54-52.
Eric Rippetoe scored a team-best 17 points in just 16 minutes off the bench, hitting 4-of-5 shots from behind the 3-point line for the Thunderbirds, but once again the team was sent tumbling into the loss column for the 24th straight time. Casey Oliverson produced 16 points, John Marshall and A.J. Hess 15 points apiece, but while SUU connected on 45.1 percent from the floor and 8-of-16 out on the perimeter, the team was outscored at the free-throw line, 33-20.
There has been very little to cheer about in Cedar City this season, particularly when the T'birds clash with a fellow member of the Big Sky. The team is scoring a mere 59.4 ppg in those contests, but giving up 72.6 ppg. Opponents have outscored SUU at the charity stripe by 135 through those 16 outings and beaten them on the glass by six rebounds on the average. Hess (9.5 ppg) and Trey Kennedy (8.6 ppg) have been the most consistent performers on offense, but that's not saying very much.
The Bobcats forced 16 turnovers by Weber State in the latest outing, but in that meeting the hosts also allowed the visitors to knock down 10-of-17 behind the 3-point line, the 58.8 percent standing as the best effort by any MSU so far this season. Offensively, the Bobcats were led by Flavien Davis with 15 points and seven rebounds, followed by Paul Egwuonwu and Terrell Brown with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Like Southern Utah, the Bobcats are also being outscored by conference opponents this season, but unlike the Thunderbirds who are at a double-digit deficit, MSU's margin of loss is currently just 2.9 ppg. Davis does his best to give the Bobcats a chance every time they take the floor by putting up 14.0 ppg, but for someone who has played more than 450 minutes versus the rest of the Big Sky, he should have more than eight assists.
You can't say the Thunderbirds haven't been more competitive of late, but the simple fact is that they just don't have the offensive firepower to take out many opponents. The losing continues for SUU.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 69, Southern Utah 59
02/27 10:16:10 ET