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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 21, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Cedar City, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: Southern Utah 3-1, Denver 3-2. Away Record: Southern Utah 0-3, Denver 0-4. Neutral Record: Southern Utah 0-2, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: Southern Utah 1-0, Denver 0-0. Series Record: Southern Utah leads, 5-3.
GAMES NOTES: Coming off a win in their Big Sky Conference opener the Southern Utah Thunderbirds hit the road for a non-league tilt against the Denver Pioneers at Magness Arena on Friday.
The Thunderbirds got their first season as a member of the Big Sky off on the right foot with a 79-67 victory over North Dakota to cap off a three-game homestand on Monday. The victory earned the Thunderbirds their third victory of the season all of which have come in the last five games.
Denver played on Tuesday and came out on the short end of a 71-61 decision on the road to Wyoming. The loss came on the heels of back-to-back wins for the Pioneers.
With wins in the last two matchups between these programs Southern Utah has taken a 5-3 edge in the all-time series.
Southern Utah was the more steady offensive team in its win over North Dakota. The Thunderbirds hit on 47.5 percent of their shots in the game and overcame a 28-17 deficit in points from the free-throw line. Jackson Stevenett scored 21 points, ripped down 10 rebounds and handed out five assists in the win.
Despite the victory, Southern Utah is still on the short end of a -9.1 scoring margin this year. The Thunderbirds are scoring 66.2 points per game, while allowing 75.3 points per game. In comparison to the rest of its conference Southern Utah has been a stellar rebounding squad with a Big Sky-leading 38.4 rebounds per game average. The Thunderbirds don't do a very good job of securing the ball though as they rank 10th in the Big Sky in assist-to- turnover ratio (0.69). Stevenett (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is one of just two players on the roster averaging in double figures. Damon Heuir (13.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) is next in line and leads the team in assists. Wade Collie (8.2 ppg) is the a third option for Southern Utah, which doesn't have a great deal of depth in scoring.
Despite shooting better than 50.0 percent in its matchup with Wyoming, Denver was unable to pick up the win because of the stellar shooting of the Cowboys. The Pioneers allowed Wyoming to hit on 64.7 percent of its shots from the field. Denver had a slight edge in points off turnovers (13-9) and a more sizable advantage in points in the paint (32-20). Chris Udofia scored a game- high 26 points in the losing effort.
Denver is scoring a lowly 62.2 points per game and hitting on 44.1 percent of its shots from the field this season. The Pioneers have managed to remain close in games though by limiting opponents to 59.8 points per game. Rebounding is a real weakness for Denver which s the third worst team in the country on the boards (26.0 pg). Normally it is Royce O'Neale (15.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.2 apg) leading the team in scoring, while stuffing the rest of the stat sheet. The 6-foot-5 forward has scored in double figures in seven straight games and has had mild success from beyond the arc where he shoots at 36.6 percent. Udofia (13.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.7 apg) also contributes across the board, while scoring in double figures.
The Pioneers have made up for less than stellar offense by putting up strong efforts at the defensive end, especially at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 69, Southern Utah 61
12/21 10:34:03 ET
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