CEDAR CITY, Utah – Southern Utah pulled away from Northern Arizona to post a 78-67 victory Saturday night at the Centrum Arena.
Damon Heuir had a game-high 27 points to lead the Thunderbirds, who won their fourth consecutive game and completed the sweep of the Lumberjacks to improve to 8-12 on the season and 6-5 in Big Sky play.
"I thought the guys competed," said Head Coach Jack Murphy. "We just did not have enough in the tank to make the final push."
NAU (7-14, 4-7) closed to within four points early in the second half and cut the Thunderbird lead to single digits several times. But the Lumberjacks were unable to get any runs to get any closer. NAU was within eight points with 3:33 left before SUU responded with a 6-0 run and finished the game at the line.
"We cut it to four a couple times," said Murphy. "The thing we need to guard against on the road is getting down by so much. Against a good team like Southern Utah on their home court up by 17, it is going to be difficult to come back."
Max Jacobsen led the Lumberjacks with 17 points and Gabe Rogers added 13 points for the Lumberjacks. Senior Ephraim Ekanem tied his career-high with 12 points with the help of a 6-of-10 night at the line.
"Our guards did a good job of utilizing the pick and roll game to find our big men getting to the basket," said Murphy. 'I was really proud of Ephraim for stepping up to the free throw line and making some of his free throw shots."
Senior Stallon Saldivar had seven points with five assists and a career-high 12 rebounds for NAU.
"Stallon's 12 defensive rebounds were outstanding," said Murphy. "He has got to be one of the best rebounding guards in the country. What he does with his physical attributes is amazing on the offensive and defensive glass."
Southern Utah made 23 out of 34 free throws in the contest and had a 16-7 advantage in second chance points. The Thunderbirds scored 19 points off 13 NAU turnovers with the help of seven steals. They also recorded seven blocks in the game to hold the Lumberjacks to 43 percent from the field.
Jackson Stevenett added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds took control midway into the first half with an 11-2 run and led by as many as 17 points in the first 20 minutes. Heuir scored 18 points in the first half for Southern Utah.
The Lumberjacks stayed in the game with a strong inside game as Jacobsen and Ekanem combined for 21 points in the first half. Jacobsen totaled 11 points, while Ekanem had 10 points with the help of a 6-for-10 mark at the line.
SUU was called for 11 first half fouls as Jayson Cheesman and Jaren Jeffery totaled three each.
NAU closed the lead to eight at the half with a late 14-5 run.
NAU travels to Sacramento State for a Monday matchup at 8:05 p.m. from the Hornets Nest. Fans can catch the game on the radio on 105.1 The Big Talker and can watch on Big Sky TV.