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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 7, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Holt Arena (8,000) -- Pocatello, Idaho. Television: None. Home Record: Southern Utah 8-3. Idaho State 3-3. Away Record: Southern Utah 2-8, Idaho State 1-11. Neutral Record: Southern Utah 0-2, Idaho State 0-3. Conference Record: Southern Utah 6-5, Idaho State 3-8. Series Record: Southern Utah leads, 12-7.
GAMES NOTES: The Southern Utah Thunderbirds will begin a four-game road trip on Thursday when they take on the Idaho State Bengals in a Big Sky Conference battle at Holt Arena.
Before this trip the Thunderbirds enjoyed a four-game homestand by picking up wins in each contest. The most recent was a 78-67 victory over Northern Arizona last Saturday, Southern Utah improved to 9-12 overall with the win and pushed itself above .500 in league play (6-5). However on the road the Thunderbirds have lost four of their last five games and are just 2-8 on the season as a whole.
Idaho State has not been so fortunate recently. The Bengals were take down 69-52, by North Dakota last Saturday in what was the fifth straight loss for the Bengals. Idaho State really hasn't had much luck all season with a record of just 4-17 overall and a 3-8 record in league play. Idaho State has split its six contests at home this season and will play six of its final nine games at Holt Arena.
These teams met as Big Sky foes for the first time earlier this season. In that contest Southern Utah was handed a 54-53 loss on its home floor. The Thunderbirds had won three straight against Idaho State and still lead the all-time series, 12-7.
Led by a game-high 27 points from Damon Heuir, the Thunderbirds were able to get past Northern Arizona. Southern Utah shot a solid 45.5 percent from the field in the contest and utilized 12 offensive rebounds to secure a 16-7 edge in second-chance points. Southern Utah also had a 19-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
The combination of Heuir (16.8 ppg) and Jackson Stevenett (16.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) has no equal in terms of scoring among Big Sky players. Heuir is the league leading scorer, while Stevenett ranks just two spots back. Scoring depth isn't a strong point though as Southern Utah has no other players putting in more than eight points per game. Jayson Cheesman (7.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg) makes up for his lack of scoring prowess by blocking the second most shots in the conference.
Another low-scoring effort doomed Idaho State against North Dakota. The Bengals collected just 19 field goals on 38 percent shooting in the loss. The Bengals were also on the short end in points off turnovers (17-6) and in the paint (38-28).
Failing to get enough going offensively has been the norm for Idaho State. The Bengals rank dead last in the conference across the board offensively including in scoring (53.6 pg), assists (9.6 pg) and field-goal percentage (.394). Idaho State is also last in the Big Sky in rebounds (27.1 pg). Melvin Morgan (11.6 ppg) and Chris Hansen (11.1 ppg) are the two leading scorers on the season but both have struggled with their shots. Neither shoots better than 36 percent from the field. Tomas Sanchez (10.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) has been more reliable with his shot but still isn't a prolific threat.
It was an off night for Southern Utah last time out against Idaho State. The Thunderbirds should be able to remedy the earlier defeat behind the scoring exploits of Heuir and Stevenett.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Utah 67, Idaho State 60
02/07 10:52:44 ET