NAU can’t keep up with Southern Utah

CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) — Damon Heuir scored 27 points and Jackson Stevenett added 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Southern Utah to a 78-67 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday night.

Jayson Cheesman had eight points and eight rebounds for the Thunderbirds (9-12, 7-5 Big Sky), who won their fourth straight game.

Max Jacobsen scored 17 points and Gabe Rogers 13 for the Lumberjacks (7-14, 4-7), who also got a career-best 12 points from Ephraim Ekanem as well as seven points and 12 rebounds from Stallon Saldivar.

“I thought the guys competed,” said NAU coach Jack Murphy. “We just did not have enough in the tank to make the final push.”

Southern Utah never trailed after Heuir tied the score with 15:31 remaining in the first half. Northern Arizona got within 60-54 with 6:42 left, but Stevenett followed with five straight points to push the cushion back to double digits.

“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.”

Southern Utah made 23 of 34 free throws in the contest and had a 16-7 advantage in second chance points. The Thunderbirds scored 19 points off 13 turnovers with the help of seven steals. They also recorded seven blocks in the game and held the Lumberjacks to 43 percent from the field.

NAU stayed in the game thanks to a strong inside presence, as Jacobsen and Ekanem combined for 21 points in the first half. Southern Utah also was called for 11 first-half fouls, with Cheesman and Jaren Jeffery taking three each.

NAU stays on the road early next week, traveling to Sacramento State for a Monday night matchup.