It was the first Big Sky game for both Southern Utah and North Dakota, with the Thunderbirds starting off conference play on the right foot. SUU rode 12 blocks on their way to a 79-67 over North Dakota on Monday night.
The Thunderbirds led early and never gave it up, though North Dakota did have the deficit as low as 62-59 late in the second half. However, SUU just wouldn't let them get easy shots, and they hit just enough big ones themselves to get the victory.
Jackson Stevenett led the way with 21 points in 37 minutes, shooting 9/19 from the floor. He also had 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals, showing that he is one of the best and most complete players in the conference when he is on his game. Wade Collie had a career high 18 as well, and showcased a pretty good offensive game.
The Thunderbirds have been average blocking shots all year, but 12 of them in this game was obviously huge. Big man Jayson Cheesman could be in the running for defensive player of the year in the conference... he came into the game with a 14.0 Block Rate (12th in the country), and had three more tonight. He is a stout defender and rebounder (22.7 DR%), and he really was a great recruiting get for head coach Nick Robinson.
For North Dakota, they simply weren't getting many looks. The guard play was supposed to be the strength of the team, but they miss Troy Huff a lot. In particular, Jamal Webb continues to give them poor play. He was 2/9 from the court, finishing with four points and five turnovers. His ORtg was already a dismal 74.1, and it could go down after this game. He has been a turnover machine, which I don't have to tell you is not a great trait for your starting PG.
Southern Utah is 1-0 in conference play, while North Dakota is 0-1. UND is now 2-20 on the road over the past two years.
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