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SUU's bench comes up big in upset

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Feb. 17 2011 9:49 p.m. MST

INDIANAPOLIS — Southern Utah turned the tables on IUPUI Thursday night, putting together a furious rally to upset the Jaguars, 80-68, in Summit League men's basketball action.

Four Thunderbird bench players finished in double figures, including a team-high 15 points by Jake Nielson, 14 from Matt Hodgson, 12 from Jordan Weirick and 10 by Ramell Taylor. Jackson Stevenett, a starter, also had 14 points for the T-birds.

SUU's bench outscored IUPUI 58-8 and outrebounded the Jaguar reserves 19-2. SUU improved to 9-17 and 5-10 in league play, while IUPUI dipped to 16-12 and 10-5.

The first time the teams met, in late January, SUU led throughout the first half but IUPUI outscored the Thunderbirds 47-18 in the second half to take an 87-61 win. This time around, it was SUU which dominated the second period, hitting 21-of-28 shots and outscoring the Jaguars 52-28 in the half.

SUU hit six of its first seven shots in overcoming a 12 point halftime deficit to pull within 42-41 at the first media time out of the second half. Jake Nielson started the run with a layup, then after Christian Siakam scored inside for IUPUI SUU scored 11 straight points. Damon Heuir hit a 3-pointer, Nielson scored on a breakaway dunk, then Hodgson and Taylor both dunked off feeds from Heuir, and a Heuir capped the run with a dunk on another breakaway.

Heuir's dunk brought SUU to within 42-41. After a timeout Leroy Nobles hit one of two free throws to push the Jaguar lead back to two, but SUU got a put-back basket from Taylor and a dunk from Hodgson for the first SUU lead of the game, 45-43.

The teams went back and forth over the next 10 minutes, but SUU took the lead for good when a Weirick jumper in the lane with 5:43 to go gave the T-Birds a 64-63 advantage. After Nobles was called for an offensive foul Stevenett got a rebound and scored to push the advantage to three.

IUPUI got back within one several times before Hodgson scored inside on a short jumper, then after a Heuir floater in the lane Hodgson blocked a Nobles shot in the lane and Stevenett grabbed the rebound. Hodgson finished the series with a dunk on the SUU end for a 74-67 SUU lead and the Thunderbirds hit four free throws down the stretch to clinch the win.

"We're playing our best basketball of the year, against some good teams," said SUU Coach Roger Reid, who notched his first win at IUPUI since taking over the SUU program four years ago. "This was a great team effort. Our bench came in and worked hard, they came in and played defense. Ramell came in and did a great job, Matt Hodgson did a great job, Jackson Stevenett did a great job, Jake came in and made some big plays and Damon Heuir did a great job. Damon did a great job and made great decisions against the press. Jordan [Weirick] did a good job too, he hit some big shots and he gave us a lot of energy on the defensive end."

Heuir came off the bench to take over point duties and finished with four rebounds and seven points, six rebounds and a steal without committing a turnover in 33 minutes on the court.

"This is when you ought to be playing your best. To come in here against a team like this and get a win is a great accomplishment for this team," Reid added. "We had some great individual efforts but we had a great team effort. We were patient, we did the things we needed to do on the offensive end too, whenever you shoot over 70 percent you're running the offense."

IUPUI looked like it might run away with the game early with a 14-2 run that gave the Jaguars an early 16-point lead. Leroy Nobles sparked the run with a 3-pointer and a dunk on a fast break, then Sean Esposito hit a three and Alex Young scored inside to give the Jaguars 10 straight points to extend an 8-4 lead to 18-4. Matt Massey finally scored inside to break the SUU drought, but IUPUI got a layup from Stephen Thomas, then Siakam scored on a putback to make it a 22-6 lead.

SUU, however, getting a pair of jump shpots from Ramell Taylor and a 3-pointer from Jordan Weirick before a Jake Neilson three pulled SUU back within 26-16. IUPUI inched ahead again, going up 40-24 on an Esposito three with 1:09 to go in the half but Nielson hit two free throws and Kyle Davis finished a fast break for the Thunderbirds to pull them within 40-28 at halftime.

SUU shot 62.0 percent for the game, including a 75 percent effort in the second half with they hit 21-of-28 shots. Meanwhile, the SUU defense limited IUPUI to 39.1 percent shooting (9-of-23) after the break after a ..533 first half (16-of-30).

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