Junior point guard Ray Jones Jr. scored a game-high 18 points for the Thunderbirds (4-9, 1-2 Summit League) who scored 21 points off of 19 North Dakota State (7-5, 1-1 Summit League) turnovers. Freshman Kyle Davis came off the bench to record his first career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and junior forward Matt Massey finished with 14 points.
Southern Utah used a couple early defensive stops, drawing three NDSU charges and receiving a couple layups form Jones Jr. to own an 8-4 lead in the opening minutes.
Both teams would go on to trade baskets before back-to-back layups by Davis and Jones Jr. sparked a 15-5 Thunderbird run. A long three by Davis from the left wing capped the spurt and gave SUU a 27-21 lead at the 5:57 mark.
The Thunderbirds would keep their lead for the rest of the half despite consecutive baskets by the Bison that cut the lead to two. SUU used a long three and a free throw by senior guard Ryan Brimley in the closing minutes to open its lead back up to six, before a late NDSU jumper sent Southern Utah in the half with a 38-33 lead.
Davis led all scorers with 10 first half points as SUU shot 51% from the field, forced 11 NDSU turnovers and held the Bison to 35% shooting.
SUU opened the second half with four straight buckets as Jones Jr. finished on a pair of fast-break layups and later added a jumper to give the Thunderbirds a 13-point, 46-33 advantage.
The Bison would later use a 6-0 run to cut the SUU lead back into single digits. The Thunderbird would use a layup from Davis to go up 57-47 with 8:08 to play but NDSU didn’t go away. The Bison would continue to attack the basket and get themselves into the bonus, then went on to produce a 9-1 run to cut SUU’s lead to 58-56 with just under five minutes left on the clock.
With 4:31 remaining, it was the Thunderbirds turn to use head to the free throw line. SUU would outscore NDSU 7-1 over the next three minutes as Massey got things started with a pair of free throws. Sophomore guard Damon Heuir later finished with a layin while getting fouled and went on to hit the free throw. Following a Bison free throw, Jones Jr. got behind the NDSU full court press for the two-handed slam to open up a 65-57 advantage with 1:37 to go.
North Dakota would use free throws to cut to four in the final minute but the Thunderbirds ended up hitting 10-of-14 at the line to seal up the conference victory.
Southern Utah finished the game shooting 47% from the floor while holding the Bison to 35% shooting. Sophomore guard Jackson Stevenett came off the bench to score eight points and junior guard Jake Nielson chipped in with six points and four assists.
The Thunderbirds continue Summit League play Saturday, hosting South Dakota State University at 7:00PM in the Centrum Arena.