Thunderbirds come calling on 24th-ranked Aztecs

Dec 18, 2013 - 3:41 PM San Diego, CA ( - The Southern Utah Thunderbirds kick off a four-game road trip in California tonight, as they challenge the 24th-ranked San Diego State Aztecs in non-conference action at Viejas Arena.

The Thunderbirds, who are slated to take on the University of San Diego three days from now as well, have yet to defeat a Division I program this season and are currently suffering through a six-game slide. The most recent setback for SUU came against UNLV at home last weekend in a 73-51 final.

As for the Aztecs, who like UNLV hail from the Mountain West Conference, they are enjoying a six-game win streak at the moment. Since bowing to nationally- ranked Arizona by a 69-60 score back on Nov. 14, the team has gone unbeaten, with the most recent victory being a 70-63 final versus Washington at home 10 days ago.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools, the teams have split four previous meetings, the most recent of those being a 70-37 blowout victory for the Aztecs two seasons ago.

For the sixth straight game the Thunderbirds were held to 59 points or less, as they stumbled against UNLV over the weekend in Cedar City. SUU went from shooting only 38.1 percent from the field, including 1-of-6 behind the 3-point line in the first half, to hitting just 27.8 percent overall and 1-of-9 beyond the arc. The Thunderbirds were charged with almost as many turnovers (15) as they had field goals (18). Jaren Jeffery and Trey Kennedy both scored in double figures for SUU, but were limited to just 10 points apiece, the latter shooting a disappointing 3-of-13 from the floor.

Kennedy, who has held at least a share of the scoring lead for the Thunderbirds in all but two games this season, accounts for 12.0 ppg as the lone double-digit scorer for the program. Kennedy is shooting only 38.5 percent from the floor, but that's still better than the team's overall level of accuracy at 35.5 percent. Out on the perimeter, the Thunderbirds have been abysmal, converting only 28.4 percent of their opportunities, resulting in just 59.0 ppg. Defensively, SUU is giving up a massive 80.0 ppg, while being beaten on the glass by more than 12 rpg.

The Aztecs shot a brutal 8-of-29 from the floor in the first half against Washington, including a mere 1-of-7 behind the 3-point line, but in the second half SDSU turned the corner with 60 percent accuracy from the field, including 16-of-21 at the free-throw line in order to come away with the win. Xavier Thames led the way with 19 points and six assists, followed by Winston Shepard with 17 points and JJ O'Brien with 10.

Thames, who is playing just under 30 minutes per contest, is generating 17.6 ppg to pace the Aztecs in scoring. Not only is he shooting 81.1 percent at the free-throw line, he is also connecting on a stellar 51.4 percent behind the 3- point line. In addition to Thames, Matt Shrigley (7.6 ppg) is also a clutch perimeter shooter who has converted 55.6 percent of his 3-point tries which means the pair has combined to make 33 of the squad's 46 triples overall. Also scoring in double figures for SDSU are Shepard and O'Brien with 11.8 and 10.6 ppg, respectively. Defensively, the program has been holding opponents to just 58.6 ppg.

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