Featured Image Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — It is not often that the New Mexico State Aggies lose conference games at home. On Wednesday night, Southern Utah became just the fourth WAC team to win at the Pan-American Center since 2012. SUU had not played a single WAC game and yet, accomplished this feat. The Thunderbirds, in their first-ever game as a member of the WAC, announced themselves as immediate contenders. For a while, it looked like the Aggies would roll in this one. NMSU jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but then an 18-7 Thunderbird run gave SUU its first lead of the game midway through the first half. The Thunderbirds never trailed again leading by as much as 14 on a couple of occasions. The Aggies attempted to rally late, pulling within three, but SUU held on for the win.
High Five T-Birds
Five Thunderbirds scoring in double figures played a significant role in the win. Tevian Jones led all players with 20. All five starters scored at least 9 points and four were in double figures. Drake Allen had 14, Jason Spurgin scored 12, and Maizen Fausett got 10. Harrison Butler, who has been among SUU’s best players as of late had a quieter night with only 9 points. Cameron Healy came off the bench for 11 points and showed why he could threaten for more playing time after seeing 17 minutes Wednesday night. In addition, three-point shooting was at a season-best 43.5%, another big factor in the huge win.
The Future is Now
The statement win is a testament to the job Todd Simon has done as head coach during his time in Cedar City. This team has not skipped a beat despite losing John Knight III. Picked ninth in the preseason polls, the Thunderbirds showed why they can do much better than that. The Aggies picked second in the polls have looked shaky at times, but this is still a major win for SUU. With the unique seeding for the WAC Tournament that does not just use regular season standings, road games are all the more critical. The Thunderbirds notched a key win for the resume winning in Las Cruces. Its impact will be felt when it comes to seed teams in March.
A home game against a sneakily improved Texas-Rio Grande Valley team on New Year’s Eve awaits. The Vaqueros, picked to finish last in the WAC went a surprising 8-4 in the non-conference. The Thunderbirds must come back down to Earth quickly and take care of business in this one. UTRGV visits Utah Tech Thursday night and could be riding a lot of momentum into the matchup if they can get a big win just down the road.