SUU head coach Todd Simon’s defensive game plan on Wednesday night was to make sure the CBU 3-point shooters didn’t beat his Thunderbirds.
With other crazy results around the league, SUU, without knowing it, had a chance to join idle Utah Valley at 8-2 and hold a one game lead over three teams.
Survive and advance is the name of the game in February.
And SUU did just that.
The T-Birds held their breath until Taran Armstrong’s shot as time expired hit the floor, giving the T-Birds a 72-71 win at CBU Events Center on Wednesday night.
Armstrong had a game-high 25 points and missed just two shots. One of those two misses came with .9 seconds remaining when his jumper from the left elbow fell off the back rim.
— California Baptist Men's Basketball (@CBUmbb) February 2, 2023
The miss allowed Southern Utah to make the seven hour bus ride home in a tie for first place.
SUU held the Lancers to 7-27 from beyond the arc (25.9 percent). However, according to Todd Simon, SUU gave CBU way too many extra possessions.
“We gave CBU 23 extra possessions (15 offensive rebounds and 8 turnovers) tonight and in a lot of cases that can come back to bite you,” Simon remarked afterwards. “However, we were fortunate to get some key stops in that stretch run and the guards really did a nice job of rebounding in late game situations.”
With 3:36 left until intermission, Reed Nottage and Cameron Healy exchanged 3-pointers to tie the game at 36.
From there to the break, SUU closed the half on a 6-2 run giving the T-Birds a 42-38 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Tevian Jones, Drake Allen and Maizen Fausett scored on that run. At halftime both teams combined to post a 53 percent mark from the field (32-61) and shot 40 percent (8-20) beyond the arc.
Jones’ 3-pointer from the parking lot at LAX pushed the Thunderbirds to their largest lead of the game with 6:31 left.
However, the Lancers responded with an 8-0 run to tie it at 69 with 2:03 left on a layup from Hunter Goodrick.
Riley Battin and Armstrong then split free throws which gave the Lancers a 71-69 lead with 79 seconds left.
On the next Thunderbirds possession, Jones converted a three-point play to give Southern Utah one final lead of 72-71 with 54 seconds left.
TEVIAN HITS AN AND 1️⃣ WITH 1:13 REMAINING ??
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) February 2, 2023
“Tevian’s an outstanding player who will be playing this game for a long time and making a lot of money while doing so,” Simon said. “I don’t see another player in the league like him with regards to consistency and he has been such a good leader for our team this year.”
Southern Utah fans still had to hold their collective breath as the Thunderbirds dodged two last bullets to escape with a hard fought win.
With 21 seconds left, Harrison Butler missed the front end of a one and one and the defensive rebound was secured by Taran Armstrong.
Lancers coach Rick Croy drew up a play to get Goodrick one last touch on the low block. Goodrick took advantage and got to the free throw line but missed a pair.
Jason Spurgin then collected the miss and after CBU fouled Spurgin, he also missed a one-and-one opportunity.
Reed Nottage collected the rebound and the Lancers called timeout with 0.9 seconds left.
Out of the timeout, the Lancers got exactly what they were hoping for: a good look.
A deep baseball pass found Armstrong, waiting on the the left elbow to take the final shot.
There was an audible gasp at the CBU Events Center. But, Armstrong’s shot hit the front of the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor.
“It’s going to be a dogfight every night,” Simon said with regards to a very competitive race for the regular season title. “You have to bring it every night. Otherwise you’re going to be on the wrong side. We built our preseason schedule (with trips to the Pit and Phog Allen Fieldhouse) to prepare our guys for the rigors of this conference. So far they are meeting the challenge in one of the country’s toughest mid-major leagues.”
Drake Allen-15 points, four assists and three rebounds
Tevian Jones-12 points, eight rebounds and three assists
Jason Spurgin-11 points and five rebounds
Maizen Fausett- 10 points and seven rebounds
Harrison Butler-10 pts, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals
3-Pointers: Healey (2), Jones (1), Barnes (1) and Fausett (1)
Taran Armstrong- 25 points (a new career high), seven rebounds, four assists and two steals
Riley Battin- 13 points four rebounds and three assists
Hunter Goodrick- 11 points and 4 four rebounds
3-Pointers: Battin and Taran Armstrong (2 each), Nottage, Goodrick and Washington (1)
Southern Utah bussed their way back to Cedar City and will visit Utah Tech on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Lancers host Abilene Christian as the second part of a doubleheader on Saturday.