SUU ATHLETICS STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION
CEDAR CITY–After suffering a pair of losses to start Big Sky Conference play, the Thunderbird men’s basketball team will have an opportunity to get back on the right track as they’ll travel up I-15 to take on Idaho State on Thursday and in-state rival Weber State on Saturday.
The Thunderbirds hosted both Big Sky opponents from the state of Montana last week, and ended up falling to both Montana State and Montana inside the America First Event Center.
The T-Birds and Bobcats went toe-to-toe last Thursday, with the game coming down to the final possessions. Ultimately, MSU pulled away 104-99 behind a huge game from Preseason Big Sky Player of the Year Tyler Hall.
Saturday’s contest wasn’t as close as the MSU-SUU contest, as the Grizzlies of Montana were able to knock off the T-Birds 79-49. The Thunderbirds struggled to get much offense going on Saturday, shooting 26 percent from the field.
Cedar City, Meet Dwayne Morgan
He’s only appeared in two contests for Southern Utah, but transfer Dwayne Morgan has already made a major impact for the Thunderbirds.
Morgan signed with SUU in October, making the transition mid-season from UNLV to Cedar City.
In his first game as a T-Bird Morgan was inserted into the starting lineup, and scored 15 points in just 19 minutes of action against Montana State.
He ramped up his efforts against Montana two days later, finishing the game with a double-double scoring 22 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Morgan will be a major key in the rotation for the Thunderbirds as the season moves forward.
Opponent Preview: Idaho State
The Bengals of Idaho State picked up a big win to open Big Sky play, as they went to Ogden and knocked off the Wildcats of Weber State 62-60.
Behind a strong offensive attack from Jared Stutzman (17 points), Brandon Boyd (15 points) and Balint Mocsan (12 points) the Bengals were able to pull away from WSU down the stretch and move to 1-0 in Big Sky play. ISU sits with a 6-6 overall record.
Stutzman is the offensive leader for Idaho State, who is averaging 13.3 points a game.
Bill Evans, who coached at SUU from 1992-2007, is in his sixth year as the head coach of Idaho State.
Opponent Preview: Weber State
According to the coaches and media in and around the Big Sky Conference, Weber State came into the year as the second best team in the league behind only Idaho as they were slotted second in both the Preseason Big Sky Coaches’ and Media Polls.
Sitting with a 7-6 overall record and a 0-1 mark in the Big Sky, Weber State will take on Northern Arizona at home before hosting the Thunderbirds.
Jerrick Harding has been the story so far this year for Weber State, as he’s averaging 21.2 ppg to this point of the season. Utah transfer Brekkott Chapman is averaging 12.9 ppg, and Ryan Richardson is putting up 12.8 ppg. Zach Braxton averages 11.3 ppg and leads the team in rebounding, pulling in an average of 6.7 per contest.
Weber State head coach Randy Rahe is in his 12th year at Weber State, and is the all-time winningest coach in the history of the program with three trips to the NCAA Tournament under his belt.
Big Sky At A Glance
Three teams sit on top of the Big Sky Conference after the first weekend of play, as Northern Colorado, Montana and Montana State all emerged 2-0 from their first two league games.
Idaho State and Sacramento state both sit 1-0 so far this season, with Idaho and Eastern Washington both sitting with a 1-1 record.
Weber State, Southern Utah, North Dakota and Northern Arizona will all head into the second weekend of Big Sky action looking for their league first win.
Weber State’s Harding is the offensive leader in the Big Sky with his 21.2 ppg average. He’s closely followed by Deontae North from Portland State, who’s averaging 20.2 ppg.
Words From Coach Simon
On where he’s seen the team improve this week after two losses…
“We’ve had a good few days,” SUU head coach Todd Simon said. “The guys know that’s not what they want to represent themselves and slowly but surely we’re establishing who we want to be.”
On the strengths of Idaho State…
“Idaho State is a well coached, hot team,” Simon said. “They’ve had a lot of success of late. Obviously beating Weber at Weber is a big win for them, and we’ve got to be prepared. They’ve got a nice group of experienced players that really know how to play.”
On what he’s hoping to see out of the rivalry game with Weber…
“Any time it’s an in-state team there’s bragging rights for alums and people around the program, so it adds a little bit, but for our guys we just want to go out and do the best we can and continue to progress and get better,” Simon said.
Both Thursday’s game with Idaho State and Saturday’s game with Weber State will tip off at 7 p.m. MT.