BROOKINGS, S.D., FEB. 4 - Ray Jones, Jr., scored 18 points while Ramell Taylor had 13 points and nine rebounds but Jackson Stevenett, Southern Utah's leading scorer, got into early foul trouble and had just four points before fouling out in 12 minutes as South Dakota State held off the Thunderbirds, 66-56, Saturday night.
SUU saw its record even at 12-12 overall and 7-7 in The Summit League, while South Dakota State moved to 19-6, 11-2 in league play. SUU is in a tie for fifth place in the conference with Oakland, a half-game behind Western Illinois, following Saturday's play while SDSU solidified its hold on second place, 1 ½ games behind Oral Roberts.
The game was close throughout, with 12 lead changes. South Dakota State held a 28-25 advantage at halftime after Nate Wolters converted a 3-point play with 00.4 seconds remaining in the period. The 28 points SDSU scored in the period were its fewest at home this season.
Taylor scored the first four points of the second half, hitting a short jumper and a pair of free throws to give the Thunderbirds a 29-28 lead and the game went back and forth from that point, with neither team building a lead bigger than two points until Griffin Callahan hit a 3-pointer, then after an offensive foul on SUU's Damon Heuir, Wolters converted a traditional 3-point play to give SDSU a 42-38 edge with 11:51 to play.
The Jackrabbits pushed the advantage to 45-40 but Jones hit a 3-pinter to make it a two-point game with 8:06 to play and it was a 47-45 game after two Jones free throws with 7:11 to play but the Jacks got a three from Chad White and two free throws from Wolters to make it a 52-45 game and the Thunderbirds were never able to get closer than five the rest of the way.
"I've never felt more proud of a team than I do tonight," SUU Coach Roger Reid said. "We've struggled here but our team came out and played hard all night long, we had a chance to win but just couldn't get it done. When you play a whole game and Jackson Stevenett is not involved, it says a lot about our team.
"It boiled down to they shot 30 free throws and we shot 12, that was really the difference in the game. We rebounded the ball well, we shot the ball well, we did have too many turnovers, but we competed very well tonight."
Wolters scored 31 points for the Jackrabbits to lead all scorers. He hit 10-of-16 field goal attempts and 11-of-13 free throws, eclipsing the Thunderbirds at the free throw line for the second straight game.
South Dakota State scored 21 points from the free throw line, hitting 21-of-30 attempts, while SUU went to the line just 12 times, hitting nine.
The Thunderbirds wound up hitting 22-of-47 shots (.468) including 3-of-5 (.600) 3-point attempts, while SDSU hit 20-of-43 (.465) shots, 5-of-16 (.313) threes. The Thunderbirds also held a significant rebounding edge, pulling down 33 caroms to the Jackrabbits' 21, but 18 Thunderbird turnovers, combined with the disparity at the free throw line spelled doom for the Thunderbirds.
-- SUU --