Southern Utah (4-7) at Northern Arizona (5-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 5, 5:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Walkup Skydome (11,230) -- Flagstaff, Arizona. Television: FSN-AZ. Home Record: Southern Utah 4-1, NAU 3-2. Away Record: Southern Utah 0-4, NAU 1-5. Neutral Record: Southern Utah 0-2, NAU 1-1. Conference Record: Southern Utah 2-0, NAU 2-1. Series Record: Northern Arizona leads, 13-8.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Utah Thunderbirds put their perfect Big Sky Conference record on the line as they visit the Walkup Skydome for a league match against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.
Since kicking off their season with four consecutive losses, the Thunderbirds have gone 5-3 and more importantly, downed North Dakota (79-67) and Northern Colorado (51-50) to build an early 2-0 mark in the Big Sky standings. To avoid a blemish in league play, Southern Utah will need to win away from home for the first time this season as it is 0-4 on the road and 0-2 at neutral sites. SUU has been inconsistent on both ends of the floor this season, which has led to mediocre scoring (63.1) and scoring defense (72.7) averages.
Northern Arizona ended a three-game losing slide on Thursday by clipping Sacramento State, 57-50, which pushed it to 5-8 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky. The Lumberjacks' sub-.500 record is partially due to a very tough non- conference schedule that featured the likes of Oregon, UNLV, Arizona, Colorado, and BYU. Due to the elite level of its competition, NAU has only managed to net 65.2 ppg on 41.4 percent field goal efficiency, but it has held its opposition to 66.7 ppg on 40.9 percent shooting from the floor.
NAU holds a 13-8 edge in the series with the Thunderbirds, including a season sweep the last time the teams met, during the 2002-03 season.
The Thunderbirds escaped their matchup with Northern Colorado by one point as Wade Collie's put in a layup with under 15 seconds remaining to give them a late lead which they maintained. Collie finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Jackson Stevenett tallied a game-high 14 points in the victory. Southern Utah compensated for a meager 33.9 percent shooting from the floor including 2-of-16 from beyond the arc, for the game by forcing the Bears into 18 turnovers. Stevenett is the most productive Thunderbird with 14.1 points and 5.8 boards per outing. Damon Heuir (12.9 ppg) is the only other player on the roster with a double-digit scoring average.
NAU had a poor offensive showing versus Sacramento on Thursday, but forced 20 turnovers which it converted into 19 points to help overcome a 32.1 percent shooting effort. Freshman guard Dewayne Russell scored a game-high 25 points, dished out five assists, and recorded four steals to guide the team. Senior guard Gabe Rodgers chipped in 11 points for the Lumberjacks, who held a 22-12 edge in points in the paint. Russell has wasted no time making an impact for NAU, as the rookie guard is pacing the squad with 16.5 ppg. Rodgers is the only other reliable scoring option for NAU with his 14.2 ppg.
The Lumberjacks will go through their share of ups and downs while they revolve around their high-scoring freshman guard, who clearly has talent but lacks experience. NAU could run away with this one if Russell continues to light it up, which is most likely going to occur against SUU's defensively weak unit.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Arizona 73, Southern Utah 62
01/05 10:37:13 ET