CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University's three-game winning streak came to an end after suffering an 82-68 defeat to league-leading Oakland University in regular-season finale held in the Centrum Arena Saturday evening.
The Thunderbirds close out the regular season with an 11-18 overall record and 7-11 mark in Summit League play while the Golden Grizzlies end the regular season with a 22-9 overall record and a 17-1 mark in conference.
Junior forward Ramell Taylor led SUU with 15 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Ryan Brimley finished with 13 points in his final home game for the Thunderbirds. Sophomore forward Jackson Stevenett chipped in with 12 points and seven boards.
Southern Utah shot 43 percent from the field and scored 22 points off of 18 turnovers but Oakland's inside presence eventually took its toll as they owned a 49-37 rebound advantage and had their front court combine for 36 points and 33 rebounds. Forward Will Hudson led the Golden Grizzlies with 16 points and added 10 rebounds while the reigning Summit League Player of the Year Keith Benson finished with 13 pints, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
The Thunderbirds opened the game with two quick buckets as Brimley knocked down a long three from the left wing to bring the crowd to its feet. Southern Utah continued to hit their shots and dial up the defensive pressure to keep their lead as Taylor provided a spark off the bench, scoring six straight points to give SUU a seven-point advantage just over eight minutes in.
Late in the half, the Thunderbirds used a pair of layups from Stevenett and junior forward Jake Neilson to hold a five-point lead with 6:10 remaining. That's when Oakland, the league's top scoring offense caught fire, closing the half with a 21-2 run, highlighted by the four straight three-pointers as the half's final 12 points to take a 38-24 lead at the break.
SUU shot 32 percent through the first 20 minutes and forced eight turnovers but Oakland shot 39 percent and made 12-of-15 at the free throw line to own the 14-point advantage at the break.
The Golden Grizzlies continued to knock down shots in the opening minutes of the second half, using their size advantage to pull away from the Thunderbirds. Oakland put together a 15-4 run in the early minutes to open up a 59-34 lead at the 14:31 mark and never look back.
Southern Utah will enter next weekend's Summit League Tournament as the eight seed and will face top-seeded Oakland in Saturday's opening round.
Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (MST).
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