FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Northern Arizona mens basketball team hosts Southern Utah on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. looking for its first win streak of the season.
It is the only thing we have not done this season is get games back to back, NAU coach Jack Murphy said of his team not winning two straight all season. Southern Utah presents a different set of challenges. They are a very inside-outside type of team.
The Thunderbirds will also be looking to post back-to-back wins after edging Northern Colorado 51-50 at home on Dec. 29. Southern Utah opened Big Sky play with a 79-67 win over North Dakota on Dec. 17.
Jackson Stevenett, who has led the team in scoring and assists the past three games, scored 14 points against the Bears, while Wade Collie added 13, including the game winner with 12 seconds to play.
Southern Utah coach Nick Robinson is 4-7 in his first season as a head coach. Robinson came to Southern Utah from LSU, where he spent three seasons on the staff.
Nick Robinson is a rookie head coach like I am, said Murphy. He is a great guy, and I have had a long relationship with him and have known him a lot of years. He has coached his team up. They are 2-0 and are in first place. They are the hunted. We have to be ready for them to come in here with the poise that has got them two victories already in conference.
Southern Utah is the first team to win its first two Big Sky Conference games in its first season of play since Cal State Northridge back in 1996-97. CSN lost its third game to Montana State. The last team to win its first three games in its first season in the league was Boise State, which went on to start out 4-0 in 1970-71.
NAU is coming off a 57-50 win over Sacramento State on Thursday. In that win, the Lumberjacks showcased a defensive effort that Murphy hopes to see become more consistent.
Sacramento State, which averaged 72.8 points per game coming in, had four players averaging 10 or more points entering the game, and the NAU defense held each below his season scoring average. John Dickson was leading the league in scoring at 15.8 points and was held to 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Mikh McKinney scored just nine points (13.3 ppg.), and sophomore guard Dylan Garrity was held to six points (13.0 ppg.).
Senior guard Michael Dunn led the NAU effort with a career-high-tying four steals as the Lumberjacks forced 20 turnovers in the contest.
We have come a long way and we can still go a long way, said Dunn. Defense is all about want to. We realize now that defense can get us to the top of the conference. When we dont have great offensive nights like Thursday or the last couple games, we can hang our hat on the defensive end and hold teams to 50 points. A lot of times that will get us the win.
NAU leads the all-time series with Southern Utah 13-8 and owns a 10-2 mark in Flagstaff. The Lumberjacks have won the last five meetings in the series overall and the last five games in Flagstaff. This will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2002-03 season.
Saturday's game will be televised live on FOX Sports Arizona.