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Bad luck haunts Southern Utah again in 1-point loss

If it weren't for bad luck, Southern Utah's men's basketball team would have no luck at all.

After battling out of an 11-point hole in the final minutes, Southern Utah drew even with Northeastern Illinois at 72-72 on a deep three-pointer by Mark Bailey.Thinking the Thunderbirds were still down one, SUU freshman Jeff Monaco intentionally fouled NEIU's Brett Nishibayashi with nine seconds left in the game. Nishibayashi missed the first free throw and then hit the second to give the Golden Eagles a 73-72 lead with eight ticks left.

Monaco then had a chance for redemption, but his three-point offering at the buzzer rimmed out and over the backboard to seal NEIU's 73-72 win.

Our kids did a great job of battling back in this game and I'm proud of their effort," said Evans. "Jeff made a mistake and nobody knows it more than Jeff. He's a great kid and he's going to win us a lot of games over the next three years."

SUU's Kenyatta Clyde led all scorers in the game with a career-high 28 points. Zachary Norvell poured in 27 to lead the Golden Eagles.

After trailing by 10 at the break (32-22), SUU cut the NEIU lead to 41-38 lead on a Jason Essex tip-in with 14:28 left. The Golden Eagles then hit three-pointers on four consecutive possessions to bust out to a 15-point bulge at 53-38.

The defensive pressure we put on them later in the second half is what got us back into it," said Evans. "It seemed like they (NEIU) were a little shell-shocked and we had all the momentum. It's unfortunate how this game ended."

SUU, which had been shooting well from the foul line in recent weeks, missed five freebies in the final seven minutes.

I think the missed free throws late in the game were the biggest factor in the game," said Evans.

The loss drops SUU to 6-18 overall and 3-11 in the Mid-Continent Conference. NEIU moves to 6-18, 3-11.