Thunderbirds Advance To Basketball Classic Semis With Win

Mar 26, 2022, 6:15 PM
John Knight III - Southern Utah Thunderbirds...
Southern Utah guard John Knight III (Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics)
(Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY – Southern Utah opened with a 12-0 spurt and held on to defeat Portland 77-66 in the Basketball Classic Quarterfinals.

The Thunderbirds (23-11) hosted the Portland Pilots (19-15) at the America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah on Saturday, March 26.

First Half

The Thunderbirds came flying out of the gates, hitting six of their first eight shots and opening up a 14-2 lead over Portland. The Pilots finally got on the scoreboard with 14:50 left in the first half.

The Pilots hitting a shot did not help their defense gather any momentum as the Thunderbirds nearly unconscious from the field in hitting 11-14 from the field, connecting on just under 80 percent of their shot attempts in the opening 10 minutes of play.

SUU opened a 25-14 lead heading into the second media timeout. Thunderbird regular season scoring leaders John Knight III and Maizen Fausett led the early charge, scoring nine and eight points respectively.

Leading 27-18 with 6:33 left, the Thunderbirds suffered a blow when Fausett went down, appearing to grab at his right shoulder. Fausett did not return and the Pilots took advantage of his absence by cutting the SUU lead to six late in the half.

Southern Utah got a huge boost from Marquis Moore who hit three of the Thunderbirds seven threes, on his way to scoring a season high 10 first half points.

Chris Austin’s near perfect 6-7 shooting for 17 points helped Portland stay within striking distance heading into the half.

SUU finished the first half shooting 69.2 percent from the field while building a 46-34 lead.

Second Half

SUU opened the second half with some great ball movement and movement without the ball, resulting in a pair of Knight III free throws.

With Fausett returning to the bench but unavailable to play, Moore continued his hot play as he scored a quick five points and passing Knight III for the scoring lead with 15 points. Southern Utah enjoyed a definitive advantage in bench scoring, outscoring the Pilots 25-3

With 13:24 left in the game, Austin appeared to suffer a significant lower leg injury, causing a significant second half delay. He had 21 points at the time of the injury. Following the delay, it appeared as though both teams were a little deflated.

The two teams combined for just six field goals in the next six minutes following the injury with SUU maintaining a 12 point lead.

Knight III finished as the T-Birds leading scorer with with 20 points and added five assists. Jason Spurgin added eight points and sixteen rebounds. Moore was the only other Thunderbird in double figure scoring with 15.

Portland’s Tyler Robertson led all scorers with 27 points along with 10 boards.

Southern Utah advances to the Basketball Classic Semifinals where they will face the Fresno State Bulldogs on Monday, March 28. Tip time to be announced.

About The Basketball Classic

This is the first postseason with The Basketball Classic. It was created in 2022 as the successor to the Postseason Tournament. The Basketball Classic will have 32 NCAA Division I teams participate that were not selected to play in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. The tourney uses the old NIT model, and matchups will be set after each round.

The Basketball Classic was founded by to replace the postseason tournament, which was discontinued after the 2020 and 2021 tournaments were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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