FARGO, N.D., Feb. 2 - Jackson Stevenett led Southern Utah with 16 points and six rebounds but Southern Utah dug itself an early hole it could never climb out of it in suffering a 85-64 Summit League loss at North Dakota State Thursday night.

With the loss SUU dipped to 7-6 in league games (12-11 overall) and missed an opportunity to move past the Bison and into third place in the conference, instead falling a game-and-a-half behind NDSU and a half-game behind Western Illinois - a 62-52 winner over IPFW Thursday - and into fifth place.

NDSU, which improved to 8-5 in league play an d15-7 overall with the win, remained in third place in The Summit League.

North Dakota State took advantage of five early turnovers to run out to a 16-2 lead in the first six minutes of the game and although the Thunderbirds made several runs at the deficit they were never able to overcome the early hole.

The Bison opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers, one by Lawrence Alexander and another by Drew Lundberg, and after Damon Heuir got the Thunderbirds on the board with a driving layup NDSU ran off 10 straight points and held a 16-2 advantage with 13:55 to play.

After Alexander capped the run with a pair of free throws Heuir hit a short jumper from the right wing to cut the deficit to 16-4 but Jordan Aaberg converted a 3-point play to push the Bison advantage to 19-4.

After finding themselves down 43-29 at halftime the Thunderbirds battled back to within 48-38 on a Ray Jones, Jr., dunk following a Stevenett steal with 17:35 to play, but NDSU got a time out and answered with 11 straight points for a 59-38 lead with 13:39 to play.

"You can't start like that and expect to beat good teams - or any team - on the road," SUU Coach Roger Reid said. "I was disappointed with the way we came out, we just didn't look ready to play. We turned it over way too much early, and although we fixed that problem we just dug a hole too deep to climb out of."

SUU finished the game with just 14 turnovers to NDSU's 16, but the five in the early going were pivotal.

Mike Felt, who fueled the early Bison run with a barrage of 3-pointers, led NDSU with 16 points off the bench, 15 of them coming on five 3-pointers.

- SUU -