The state of Utah has seven Division I basketball programs, the most of any other state in the western United States aside from California. It makes for a beautiful college basketball scene with programs at all levels of the sport. One of those programs resides in Cedar City where we find the T-Birds of Southern Utah University.
Tuesday night, fans inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum were in for an in-state college hoops treat. The T-Birds made the journey North to Logan to take on the Utah State Aggies in one of the best home courts in the country.
I’m not sure fans were ready for what was in store. But they did their part to help motivate the home team Aggies to a 93-84 win.
T-Birds Hit Aggies Hard to Open First Half
The Thunderbirds hit the court running. SUU opened the game on an 8-0 run and Rob Jeter’s team had fans nervous inside the Spectrum. The T-Birds didn’t let up either, maintaining their lead all the way into the final minutes of the first-half. However, both teams, in the minute of the first half, exchanged baskets. Ultimately, it was Utah State that took a 46-45 into the break.
Utah State ate away at SUU’s lead at the free throw line, taking 20 attempts in the first 20 minutes of play. Opening the second half, Utah State went on a 9-0 run and never gave up the lead again. Utah State’s biggest lead of the game at 14 points came in the second half on the back of four starters logging double-digits and shooting 63.5% from the floor as a group.
The Big Man Battle We All Wanted
There aren’t many commonalities between these two programs. And with little history between the two, storylines may be in short supply.
However, college basketball fans know an old fashion big man battle when they see one. On Tuesday night all eyes were expecting a show between T-Bird sophomore Parsa Fallah and Utah State transfer star Great Osobor.
For the T-Birds sophomore forward, Fallah came into the contest averaging 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shooting 66.7% from the floor. Those first three stats are team-highs. So naturally Fallah’s matchup with the 6-8, 250-pound Osobor was a must-see storyline of the night.
The story was one-sided though, with Fallah finding himself in foul trouble almost immediately dealing with a complete brute of a player down low. Fallah played just 10 minutes total and fouled out mid-way through the second half.
The British big man came in as a stat sheet stuffer in his first two contests as an Aggie, and he didn’t disappoint. For what was supposed to be a tough matchup was anything but. Osobor and his performance all game (even through slight injury) is what won his team the game.
Southern Utah-G Prophet Johnson
The stat line: 24 points, 9-11 shooting from the floor & 5-6 shooting from the free throw line
Johnson, a 6-3 junior college transfer, made his name known in the state of Utah Tuesday night. The Dayton, OH native who played one season of college basketball at Bellevue College in the NWAC scored a career high against Utah State.
It was a great night for a player Rob Jeter will lean on heavily throughout the season. Johnson also didn’t miss a shot until the second half. The JUCO transfer kept the T-Birds in the first half. Teammates Dominique Ford and Zion Young did their damage in the second half. So, it was a combined effort by the SUU guards. Ford finished with 19 points and Young finished with 14 points.
Prophet still hasn’t missed…… 😮💨😮💨 he’s 4-4 from the field and the t birds lead by 9! pic.twitter.com/R32OSSGPr5
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) November 15, 2023
Utah State-F Great Osobor
The stat line: 31 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks on 9-12 shooting from the floor & 13-17 shooting from the free throw line
Aside from having a great name, Great Osobor had a great game to go along with it. Coming into the game, Osobor has made his mark all over the floor for head coach Danny Sprinkle. Tuesday night was no different. Osobor bullied his way into the post and excelled in his role in the Aggies’ motion offense with fellow former Montana State Bobcat Darius Brown II all night.
But he found most of his success in isolation situations underneath the basket all night long, including this highlight-reel dunk below.
that was one 𝐆𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐓 one-handed slam 😏
— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) November 15, 2023
As tough of a loss as that was for the T-Birds, there was plenty of hope to take with them into their next game.
The T-Birds will have a week off to rest. SUU heads to Ruston, LA in a multi-team event hosted by Louisiana Tech.
That game can be streamed on ESPN+ Tuesday, November 22nd at 2:00 p.m. MT.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.