FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A tough battle ended in heartbreak for the Thunderbirds as the men’s basketball team lost at the buzzer to Northern Arizona, 76-74, on Saturday.

A tough battle ended in heartbreak for the Southern Utah men’s basketball team as they fell at the buzzer to Northern Arizona, 74-76, in Flagstaff, Arizona, Dec. 16, 2023 | Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics, St. George News

With just eight seconds left in the ball game, Southern Utah trailed by three points. Braden Housley knocked down a trey to tie the ball game at 74. The Lumberjacks inbounded the ball with six seconds remaining, missed a layup, then tapped it in just before the final buzzer sounded.

The Lumberjacks have won three straight games with buzzer-beaters. The Thunderbirds fall to 3-7 on the year. 

“Offensively we did some good things and showed the will to battle back even when we were down late, but until we can consistently get stops we can’t expect the result to change,” said Thunderbird coach Rob Jeter.

T-Bird top players

SUU had five players score in double figures. University of Texas El Paso transfer Jamari Sibley, making his first appearance for the Thunderbirds, scored 15 points off the bench with seven rebounds and three steals. SUU was led by Dominique Ford’s 19 points on 4-10 from behind the three and five assists on the night.

Parsa Fallah secured a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, including five offensive. He also led the team with two blocks in the contest.

The Thunderbirds as a team shot 42% from the floor and just 27% from three. Southern Utah continued to struggle defensively as they allowed NAU to shoot 53% from the floor and 42% from three.

“We have to be better defensively, that’s all there is to it,” Jeter said. “We can’t expect to win ball games when we consistently allow teams to shoot over 50% and give up 76 points.”

Up Next:

The Thunderbirds will be on the road against former Big Sky Conference opponent Montana State on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.

Written by Parker Haynie, Southern Utah University Athletics.

Utah center Alisa Pili drives to the basket, flanked by Southern Utah’s Daylani Ballena (left) and Megan Smith, during No. 11 Utah’s 96-60 victory, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 16, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Lady T-Birds

In Cedar City, Southern Utah kept pace and even held a brief lead over No. 11 ranked Utah for the first half of the first quarter, before the Utes went on a 19-0 run to take a 26-13 lead at the end of the quarter.

Utah center Alisa Pili scored 15 of her team-high 20 points in the opening stanza, including three 3-pointers. The Utes went on to take a commanding 50-23 lead at halftime and never looked back in the eventual 36-point victory.

Utah shot a blistering 47% from 3-point range (16-for-34), while the Thunderbirds were just 2-for-15 from long distance. SUU’s Megan Smith led all scorers with 26 points, converting 11 of her 17 field goal attempts.

Ava Ulrich contributed 15 points for the Thunderbirds, whose record dropped to 3-6. The Utes, meanwhile, improved to 9-2 overall.

Up Next:

SUU’s next scheduled game is at home on Thursday, Dec. 21 against Northern Arizona, with tipoff set for 2 p.m.

Written by Jeff Richards, St. George / Cedar City News.

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