The T-Birds are the newcomers. And the T-Birds are trying to do what the Jacks did in their first year in the WAC.
Southern Utah is 4-1 in WAC play in its first season in the WAC. SFA won a share of the WAC regular season title in its first season in the WAC.
And now, the T-Birds and Jacks are set to tip off in a Saturday afternoon marquee matchup at the America First Events Center.
SFA has won 15 straight WAC games dating back to Jan. 26, 2022. SUU is coming off an impressive win over Sam Houston on Thursday night.
SFA has won seven straight and is finally getting fully healthy. SUU is led by a WAC Player of the Year candidate in Tevian Jones.
As you can see, when fans tune into ESPN+ at 1 p.m. MT, they are going to be in for a treat.
The T-Birds are one of the highest scoring teams in the country, averaging 87.1 points per game. SFA averages around 77 points per game but is coming off an 85-72 win at Utah Tech on Thursday.
Role Players Have to Step Up
Southern Utah has four 1,000-point scorers on its roster. Tevian Jones, Maizen Fausett, Harrison Butler and Cam Healy. And while Jones is a known scorer, averaging 19.9 points per game, Todd Simon has other role players that can go off at any given moment.
Fausett went for a game-high 22 points in Thursday’s win over Sam Houston. And Dee Barnes came off the bench to score 17 points. Harrison Butler is the second leading scorer for the T-birds but has yet to really get going offensively in WAC play.
The two players that could have a significant impact on Saturday afternoon are Drake Allen and Jason Spurgin. Allen is the floor general and everything runs through him. Plus, the massive chip that Allen plays with on his shoulder will be needed in a battle against a very physical opponent.
In the case of Spurgin, many wouldn’t think much about this 6-11 sophomore. But there is surprising athleticism, a lot of length and a high basketball I.Q. that Spurgin possesses. And it creates problems for opponents.
Four T-birds were in double figures in the win over Sam Houston on Thursday. If the T-Birds get that kind of production once again, it could be a long night for SFA.
Jacks Physicality and Defensive Pressure
SFA plays a different style of basketball. It’s not often you see teams be so physical on the defensive end and yet, get out in transition as often as the Jacks do. But, steals, long rebounds, and simply overwhelming opponents has that effect.
And, for 15 straight WAC games, that is exactly what the Jacks have done. In Thursday’s win over Utah Tech, the Jacks had 14 steals, 19 fast break points and 40 points in the paint. SFA forced 25 turnovers in the win. Day Day Hall and Roti Ware each had four steals.
Along with the physicality and defensive pressure, SFA has started shooting the ball much better. In Thursday’s win, SFA shot 56 percent from the field and 53 percent from 3-point land. In last Saturday’s win over Grand Canyon, the Jacks shot around 49 percent from the field.
What makes life a little easier for Kyle Keller is the Jacks are getting healthy. Jaylin Jackson-Posey is returning from a broken hand. Robbie Armbrester is returning from dealing with plantar fascia. And Jalil Beaubrun finally saw some minutes after being out the last seven weeks with a broken foot. 11 players played 10-plus minutes in Thursday’s win.
What’s At Stake?
SFA has won 15 straight WAC regular season games. And the Jacks are 5-0 in WAC play and trying to move up in the resume seeding system standings. The America First Events Center is a tough place to play. But, SFA knows how to win on the road. The Jacks have won nine straight road games coming into Saturday.
For the T-Birds, keeping pace with the rest of the pack for the regular season title is on the line. It is also another opportunity for a statement win in their first year in the WAC.
Check in to ESPN+ at 1 p.m. MT as this should be a very entertaining matchup between two very good mid-majors.