Cats win inaugural conference game vs. Thunderbirds

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds’ first season in the Big Sky Conference hasn’t been pleasant thus far, and it didn’t get any better on Monday as they lost to the Bobcats in their inaugural conference matchup, 76-68.

The Bobcats led the entire first half and dominated the Thunderbirds, who have been roughed up on the road this season, losing road games by an average of nearly 15 points.

MSU senior guard Christian Moon led all scorers with 24 points and senior guard Xavier Blount added 13 to pace the Bobcats. Moon hit a three-pointer with six seconds left in the first half to push the lead to eight, but Damon Heuir answered at the buzzer with a three of his own to bring the Thunderbirds within five at halftime, 36-31.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can score. When you look at our stats the last several games, we have had some guys in the 20s, like Christian,” said head coach Brad Huse. “It’s good teamwork. I really like how these guys are playing off each other.”

The Bobcats pushed the lead to 11 early in the second half only to have the Thunderbirds chip away at it and eventually tie it up with just over 11 minutes to play. Damon Heuir led the Thunderbirds with 20 points and Jackson Stevenett added 19 points, but it wasn’t enough. The Bobcats pulled away on a pair of free throws by Blount and defensive stands on six possessions in which the Thunderbirds could have tied it or taken the lead.

“We had several chances to stretch leads and didn’t do it,” Huse said. “They made big buckets when they needed to. I thought they were more aggressive getting rebounds; they got some big putbacks.” The Bobcats hit their free throws down the stretch to win the game.

The Bobcats are now 7-9 overall and 4-4 in Big Sky play. They host Big Sky Conference co-leader Weber State on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.