CEDAR CITY — The Southern Utah Thunderbirds men’s basketball team closed out non-conference play this season with an emphatic win over Antelope Valley, 95-78 on Saturday.

Southern Utah’s Prophet Johnson scores on a dunk during an emphatic win over Antelope Valley, 95-78, in Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 30, 2023 | Photo by SUU Athletics, St. George News

With many Thunderbirds battling a flu bug, the team pulled off the win with Parsa Fallah and Jamari Sibley unable to play due to illness.

“I am proud of how our guys battled tonight, as of yesterday I wasn’t sure we were even going to be able to play,” Thunderbird head coach Rob Jeter said. “We only had five guys able to practice because of sickness. So I am proud of our guys coming out and battling and coming away with a good win at home.”

The Thunderbirds led by seven at the half. Back-to-back steals by Prophet Johnson to open the second half sparked a run that pushed the lead to 15, and the T-Birds never looked back. 

SUU had a season-high 17 assists, led by Braden Housley with six. Johnson led the team in rebounds, corralling 13 to go along with 11 points and a double-double.

Housley led the Thunderbirds in points, pouring in 22. Five players scored in double-digits for the Thunderbirds, Dominique Ford had 19, Zion Young with 16 — including 4-9 from three— and Chazz Hutchison had 10 points and nine boards. 

SUU won the turnover battle 19-10 and outscored the Pioneers 33-6 in points from turnovers. Five different Thunderbirds recorded a steal with Housley and Johnson leading the way at four apiece. The Thunderbirds shot nearly 50% from the field and just under 40% from three-point range. 

“We are out of time in terms of figuring things out,” Jeter said after the game. “We are into league play, so whatever we have we have to keep going with it. We can score with anybody but we have to learn how to make teams uncomfortable when they’re on offense because trading bucket for bucket doesn’t work in our league.”

Up Next:

The Thunderbirds resume conference play when the Western Athletic Conference preseason favorite Grand Canyon University travels to Cedar City on Thursday, Jan. 4 at 6:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Written by Parker Haynie, Southern Utah University Athletics Communications

SUU women’s basketball team competed against the University of Texas at El Paso, falling 89-62, in El Paso, Texas, Dec. 30, 2023 | Photo by SUU Athletics, St. George News

Thunderbird women’s basketball

On the road in El Paso, the SUU women’s basketball team competed against the University of Texas at El Paso, also on Saturday, falling 89-62. The loss brings the Thunderbirds record to 3-8 overall, while the Miners improved to 5-8 on the season.

“I was disappointed with our toughness on both ends of the floor,” Thunderbirds head coach Tracy Mason. “The tougher team won tonight. We’ve got work to do this week to get ready for the start of conference play. We need to be better.”

Although SUU started the game with a 7-6 lead, UTEP bounced back with a 12-4 stretch to take an 18-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The competing squads took turns exchanging baskets early in the second period, as the Thunderbirds trimmed the lead to six, 22-16, with 7:00 on the clock. However, the Miners would score nine of the next 11 points to jump in front 31-18. UTEP held a 36-23 advantage at the break.

Ava Uhrich was perfect for the Thunderbirds in the fourth quarter, recording seven points while missing no baskets. However, the lead proved to be insurmountable as the Miners claimed the 89-62 victory.

Uhrich led the way for Southern Utah, racking up 15 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal. Samantha Johnston scored 13 points to go along with a team-high three steals. Daylani Ballena was the third Thunderbird to score in double figures, recording 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Up Next:

The Lady Thunderbirds will remain on the road as they travel to WAC foe Grand Canyon University on Thursday, Jan. 4. at 6 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Written by Tyler Francis, Southern Utah University Athletics Communications

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