Cedar City, Utah – Despite double-doubles by both Mitch Wilmer and Alonzo Traylor, Southern Utah was able to hold off North Dakota 79-67 in the Big Sky debut for both teams on Monday night at The Centrum.
Wilmer had career-highs with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Traylor added 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds as both posted the first double-doubles of their respective careers.
While those two big men were having career nights for UND (2-7, 0-1 BSC), Southern Utah (3-6, 1-0 BSC) junior Wade Caulie had one of his own by scoring a career-high 18 points and senior guard Jackson Stevenett added a game-high 21 points to lead the Thunderbirds to a 1-0 start in league play.
“I thought we played hard,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “I can’t fault our team’s effort. We were within a possession there at the end, but need someone or a group of guys to come up with a stop. That has been our Achilles’ heal all season.”
Traylor pulled the visitors to within a possession at 62-59 with just under four minutes to play, but his free throw to finish off a potential 3-point play was off the mark.
Reserve guard A.J. Hess would come up with the biggest shot of the night for the home team on the ensuing possession, as his 3-pointer from the right wing late in the shot clock dashed any hopes of a UND comeback.
The T-Birds would go 10-for-12 from the stripe inside the final two minutes to stretch out the lead to double figures.
Junior Aaron Anderson scored a game-high 16 points for UND, but no one on the visiting team could get in a rhythm offensive. The Green and White shot just 30 percent from the floor (18-for-60) as it was the free throw line where UND kept itself in this contest.
Anderson and Wilmer combined to go 18-for-22 as the team shot 80 percent on its freebies, but the T-Birds were equally as effective, shooting 85 percent (17-for-20) from the stripe.
Southern Utah built a six-point halftime lead thanks to a quartet of 3-pointers. Caulie hit two of those and had 11 points off the bench to match Stevenett for the first-half lead.
Traylor had nine points and five rebounds in the opening 20 minutes to help keep the halftime deficit manageable at 39-33. The visitors also converted 9-of-10 free throws in that stanza as they erased what was once an 11-point deficit after a 10-2 run by the home team.
SUU would take its largest lead at 28-17 on a 3-pointer from Stevenett, but the visitors chipped away pulling to within four late on a triple by Josh Schuler, who finished with 11 points. The T-Birds would get the final bucket, however, on an extended possession after claiming their sixth o-board of the half.
UND will return home on Friday to face Northern Colorado in the Big Sky home debut for the team. Tipoff is set for 7:05 p.m. CT.
Game Notes: This was the first meeting between the two teams on the hardwood and first Big Sky Conference game for both programs … Junior Jamal Webb had three steals for UND to move into second place on UND’s all-time career charts with 128, moving past Rico Burkett (127) … The double-doubles by Traylor and Wilmer were the first of the season for a UND player … Wilmer’s 15 points marked the third time this season he eclipsed his career-high … Traylor is averaging 15.0 ppg and 8.5 rpg over the last two outings for UND.