CEDAR CITY, Utah — Tevian Jones and Aanen Moody scored 17 points apiece as Southern Utah won its eighth straight game, narrowly beating Idaho 85-80 on Thursday at America First Event Center in a Big Sky Conference game.
“We did a much better job over the course of the last 25 to 30 minutes of trying to eliminate second-chance points,” Idaho coach Zac Claus said. “They do a tremendous job of being physical. They treat any shot as being an offensive opportunity. For us to limit them to three offensive rebounds in the second half was important.”
Dre Marin added 16 points for the Thunderbirds. Ivan Madunic had nine rebounds for Southern Utah (8-1, 3-0 Big Sky).
Senior guard Damen Thacker scored a career-high 27 points for the Vandals (0-8, 0-5). Moscow High School graduate and sophomore guard Gabe Quinnett added 10 points, as did senior guard Ja’Vary Christmas, who added four rebounds and five assists. Thacker and Quinnett each contributed four assists as Idaho went 28-for-51 from the field (54.9 percent), marking the second consecutive game the Vandals converted 50 percent of their shots. Idaho also went 7-for-14 (50 percent) from distance and was 17-of-20 (85 percent) at the free-throw line.
The Thunderbirds raced out to a 34-18 lead with 8:26 remaining before halftime, and held a 47-35 advantage at the break.
The Southern Utah lead was 58-46 at the 15:39 mark of the second half, then Idaho started to chip away. A 7-0 run, led by Thacker’s four points, pulled the Vandals within 58-53 with 13:57 to go. The Thunderbirds stretched the lead back out to 10 midway through the half, but Quinnett’s jumper, a five-point personal run by senior foward Babacar Thiombane and Christmas’ dunk with 3:11 remaining put Idaho in prime position at 73-70. Christmas’ fast break layup with 1:14 left got the Vandals to 76-74.
Thacker hit a pair of free throws, then finished a layup with 17 seconds remaining as Idaho closed to 81-80. However, Marquis Moore made two free throws, and Quinnett’s 3-pointer was off the mark, forcing the Vandals to foul John Knight, who hit a pair of free throws for the final margin.
“I love the resiliency of this group,” Claus said. “I know that they’re fighting. I know that they’re competing. We’ll get our rest, we’ll study some tape, and we’ll get this group ready for Saturday.”
The two teams meet again at 11 a.m. Saturday at the same site.