ST. GEORGE — Utah Tech men’s basketball coach Jon Judkins could finally heave a sigh of relief.
The Trailblazers held on to beat Southern Utah 70-68 Thursday night in Burns Arena after the T-Birds’ Dominique Ford launched a potential game-winning 3-pointer that rimmed out at the buzzer.
“I love the effort tonight,” Judkins told the Voice of the Trailblazers Rod Zundel after the win. “These rival games always go down to the last.”
Guard Beon Riley made a welcome return to the Utah Tech lineup. After missing several games with injury, Riley led Utah Tech in scoring with 16 points off the bench in the win.
Noa Gonsalves contributed 15 points for Utah Tech’s cause and Jaylen Searles scored 13 for the winners.
Free throws were a critical part of the game as Utah Tech finished 20-of-32 from the stripe and SUU recorded a 15-of-23 free throw performance.
Both teams missed shots as the Trailblazers finished 4-of-16 from 3-point land while the T-Birds sank just 3-of-21 long balls in the contest.
Utah Tech did what it needed to do by getting out to an early lead. Riley was big in the first half and the Trailblazers led 33-25.
Then the Trailblazers held on in a second half which was bogged down by foul calls and referee timeouts. The teams combined for 46 personal fouls overall.
SUU got a game-high 17 points from Zion Young in the contest while Ford finished with 11. Jamari Sibley was next with 10 points for the T-Birds.
Utah Tech improved its mark in the Western Athletic Conference standings to 5-7, 9-14 overall.
Southern Utah slipped a game behind to 4-8 in the conference and is also 9-14 overall.
The Trailblazers are back in action Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. in Burns Arena for a WAC contest against Cal Baptist. SUU travels south to take on Grand Canyon at 7 p.m. MST Saturday.
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