MEN'S BASKETBALL: The Southern Utah University men's basketball team used a balanced scoring effort and a solid defensive performance to earn a 73-67 exhibition victory over Carroll College at the Centrum Arena Wednesday night.
Junior center Matt Massey led the Thunderbirds with 17 points while junior guard Ray Jones Jr. added 12 points and five assists. SUU also had Jake Nielson, Ramell Taylor and Jordan Weirick each finish with nine points as Nielson also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Defense highlighted the Thunderbirds final tune up before opening the regular season next week, holding a Carroll team that beat Idaho State last Saturday, to 28.4% shooting, posting 49-40 rebound advantage and scoring 44 points in the paint.
"It was nice to get a win tonight while seeing a lot of improvement from the other night," stated head coach Roger Reid. "Carroll is a good basketball team that played hard and really tested us. It was a good all-around effort that gives a us a little momentum heading into next week's opener."
Carroll opened the game with a pair of three's but a Hodgson dunk keyed a 9-0 run for the Thunderbirds. Jones Jr. hit a couple free throws and later made a steal that led to a fast break lay in by Nielson. Hodgson capped the run with a nice jump hook to give SUU the early 9-6 lead.
The Southern Utah defense, led by the pressure of Jones Jr., produced another big run for the T-Birds. Jones Jr. scored 10 of SUU's first 18 points, driving to the basket and finishing a couple times while getting fouled and hitting his free throws. Massey later closed out the run with dunk and layup on consecutive trips to extend the Thunderbird lead to 22-17.
Nielson's jumper from the top of the key gave SUU its first double-digit lead of the game, 36-26 at the 3:10 mark. Taylor later hit a couple free throws and Massey's layup extended SUU's lead to 14 but a late bucked by Carroll sent SUU into the half up 42-30.
Carroll got within six with seven minutes remaining but Taylor gave SUU the momentum right back, sprinting the length of the floor and blocking a pair of Carroll layups, bringing the Thunderbird crowd to its feet. Taylor later worked hard underneath, muscling in shot and Weirick followed with a lay in the next time down for a 67-56 lead with just over six minutes left.
SUU would keep its lead around 10 for the remaining of the game before Carroll added a couple buckets late.
"Ramell made a couple nice plays during that stretch where the game could have gotten away from us," commented Reid. "Jake and Ramell brought great energy and played very well for us tonight."
The Thunderbirds open the regular season at home next week, hosting California Baptist University at 7 p.m. on Monday in the Centrum Arena.