SUU men’s basketball team cruises to home-opener win over St. Katherine

CEDAR CITY — The Southern Utah University men’s basketball team didn’t let an almost empty arena keep them from rolling to a 95-47 win over the University of St. Katherine Saturday afternoon.

St. Katherine at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 28, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Sharpshooting guard Tevian Jones led the Thunderbirds in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Fellow guard Dre Marin added 15 points

Also reaching double figures for SUU were John Knight III with 12 points, Harrison Butler with 11 and Maizen Fausett with 10. 

The Thunderbirds shot a collective 37-of-63 from the field, or 58.7%, while the Firebirds were just 19-of-60, or 31.7%.

SUU got off to a strong start, outscoring St. Katherine 10-0 over the first five minutes. 

Just past the midway point of the first half, the Thunderbirds were up 25-13, after which SUU managed to stay ahead the rest of the game by a margin that was roughly equal to St. Katherine’s running point total.

The T-Birds took a 45-26 lead into the halftime break, after which they came back and picked up where they left off, rattling off seven straight points over the first two minutes to bring them back to double the Firebirds’ score, 52-26.

Eventually, 12 of the 13 players on SUU’s squad made it into the scoring column, with the only exception being starting center Ivan Madunic, who didn’t attempt any shots.

Marin said afterward it was fun to see the team’s reserve players get some productive floor time.

“I love it,” Marin said. “I mean, usually, our typical game, the crowd is maybe going crazy and just giving them confidence. One through 14, everyone is ready to go, and I think anyone can step up anytime.”

SUU players John Knight III and Dre Marin speak to members of the media following Thunderbirds’ 95-47 win over St. Katherine, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 28, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Saturday’s game lacked a raucous crowd, however, as fewer than 50 fans were in the seats at SUU’s America First Event Center. COVID-19 restrictions had limited the attendees to players’ family members, plus arena staff and members of the media. For those not able to attend in person, the game was streamed live for free on Pluto TV.

SUU head coach Todd Simon said his team tried to make the best of the unusual situation.

“It’s a unique deal,” Simon said. “You know, it’s almost kind of goofy, and in a way that is different than what you’re used to. But you know, it’s good. A game’s a game. Once it goes up, I’m pretty tunnel vision, and I think the players are, too. You’re kind of within that 94 (feet) on that floor.”

Simon said his players used their own energy and enthusiasm to make up for the noise and excitement of the missing crowd.

“You get up and manufacture your own juice, so to speak,” he said. “Our guys do that for each other.”

SUU, which improved to 1-1 on the young season, starts Big West conference play this coming week when the T-Birds play the Montana Grizzlies twice in three days, with both contests in Cedar City. Scheduled tipoff times are Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at noon.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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