CEDAR CITY — The Thunderbird men’s basketball team wrapped up their 2020-21 home schedule in thrilling fashion on Wednesday evening, erasing a 15-point lead by Northern Arizona and eventually claiming an 85-80 victory to finish the year with a perfect 14-0 record inside the America First Event Center.
This marks the first time the Thunderbirds have gone undefeated at home since the 2000-01 campaign, and also marks the most home victories that Southern Utah has had during its Division I tenure, according to a press release issued by SUU.
“I’m proud of the guys, there were some fun things tonight,” SUU head coach Todd Simon said in the release. “The mark of being a good team is winning when you’re not at your best, and we clearly weren’t for a good portion of this game, but still were able to find a way to win. This is a big accomplishment, a perfect record at home, you can’t get any better than that and these guys protecting the home floor is what we want to be as a program.”
The Thunderbirds are now 16-3 on the season overall, and closing in on the best regular season winning percentage in the team’s Division I history. SUU is also 9-2 in Big Sky Conference play, sitting second in the league standings to only Eastern Washington.
SUU started the game on a 9-2 run, thanks entirely to three-point shooting from Dre Marin, who hit the first three shots for the Thunderbirds. During that stretch, Marin surpassed the 1,000-point barrier for his career.
From that point, the Lumberjacks started heating up and built a 15-point lead with 5:42 to play in the opening half.
However, the Thunderbirds were able to respond back with a strong run of their own, closing out the first frame on a 12-0 run to only trail by two at the break.
In the second half, neither team led by more than five points at any point, and it stayed very close throughout.
Clutch free throw shooting helped out the Thunderbirds, as they went 20-of-21 from the free throw line on the night overall, and made all the necessary shots down the stretch to leave the arena with a 85-80 victory.
Marin matched his career-high with 21 points, and Maizen Fausett finished with the same point total. Fausett led the T-Birds in rebounding as well with nine on the night.
John Knight III finished with 16 points for Southern Utah.
SUU outscored NAU 42-26 in the painted area, and had a 15-2 advantage in fast break points.
Cameron Shelton finished the game with 25 points for Northern Arizona. NAU hit 14 triples through the course of the contest, shooting 45 percent from behind the arc.
The Thunderbirds and Lumberjacks will wrap up their home-and-home on Friday evening in Flagstaff. Tip time is set for 5 p.m.
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