Portland State (11-12) at Southern Utah (1-22)

The Sports NetworkFebruary 20, 2014 

GAME NOTES: Opportunities to break through in conference play continue to dwindle for Southern Utah, as the Thunderbirds now turn their attention to fellow Big Sky Conference member Portland State tonight at Centrum Arena.

Since defeating Arizona Christian in the season opener, the Thunderbirds have fallen off the map with a staggering 22-game slide. The team last took the floor on Saturday and, for a time, appeared to be gaining some confidence against Idaho State, but eventually suffered the 75-65 home loss.

At this point, the Thunderbirds are three days shy of going a full calendar year since capturing their last win over a Division I foe (Cal State Northridge) on Feb. 23, 2013. It has been even longer since the squad took down a league opponent, having last defeated a Big Sky member on Feb. 7, 2013 (Idaho State).

While SUU sits all alone at the bottom of the conference standings, the Vikings are 6-8 in league play, but that has them ahead of only the Thunderbirds in the Big Sky. Portland State, which is kicking off a four-game road trip tonight, has fallen in four straight decisions, the most recent being a 72-65 final versus Sacramento State last Saturday at home.

PSU owns a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series, posting a 67-64 win at home last month.

The Portland State defense allowed the Hornets to shoot a season-high 61.7 percent from the floor over the weekend, more than enough to send the Vikings to the loss column. Andre Winston stepped up and posted 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field for the hosts, followed by Gary Winston and Tim Douglas with 10 points apiece, but the squad squandered 53.7 percent accuracy from the floor.

Douglas is the leading scorer at the moment for the Vikings with his 13.1 ppg, but he has converted just 38.4 percent of his field goal chances and is only 33.3 percent accurate behind the 3-point line. However, it is important to have Douglas on the floor as much as possible because he also paces the program in assists (84) through 23 starts. Because of his efforts, PSU is producing a solid 72.0 ppg, but at the same time giving up 71.4 ppg which doesn't leave much room for error.

Southern Utah led by a point at the break versus the Bengals and was up by three a few minutes into the second half, but the defense failed to hold off the visitors and in fact allowed ISU to rip off an 11-0 scoring run late to claim the decision. A.J. Hess was able to deliver 14 points, shooting a decent 5-of-12 from the floor, but six of his misses came on seven attempts beyond the arc. Jaren Jeffery and Race Parson pitched in with 12 points apiece in the setback as well.

Unfortunately, the Thunderbirds are getting too much attention for the wrong reasons this season, one of those being the massive negative scoring margin which currently measure minus-17.0 ppg. The program doesn't have a single player scoring in double figures through 23 games, which isn't all that surprising given how much SUU has suffered, but Trey Kennedy (9.3 ppg) and Hess are still doing what they can to change all that.

Coming close last weekend should have given the Thunderbirds reason to believe a breakthrough could be around the corner. Given that Portland State is just above SUU in the standings means the hosts should have a fighting chance yet again tonight, but don't get your hopes up.

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