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No. 6 T-Birds score first-round upset

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — David Palmer scored 18 points as sixth-seeded Southern Utah upset third-seeded Oakland in the first round of the Mid-Continent Conference tournament Sunday night.

Palmer went 4-for-5 from 3-point range for the Thunderbirds (11-16), who lost 92-77 to Oakland (17-11) in the regular season. As a team, Southern Utah shot 70 percent (7-for-10) from outside the arc to Oakland's 30.3 percent (10-for-33).

Southern Utah shot 62.5 percent (15-for-24) from the field in taking a 34-17 halftime lead; over the same span, the Golden Grizzlies shot just 28.6 percent (6-for-21) from the field.

The Thunderbirds held their biggest lead, 44-22, when Al Williams hit two free throws with just over 16 minutes left in the game. Oakland got the margin below double digits just once after that, when Rawle Marshall hit a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left to cut Southern Utah's lead to 62-55.

Robbie Warren added 13 points and Donnie Jackson had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Southern Utah.

Eight days ago, Oakland's Mike Helms scored 42 points in a 92-77 win over Southern Utah University. Sunday night Southern Utah held Helms, the nation's third-leading scorer, to a season-low eight points.

"We knew we had to stop Helms, he's a great player and he's had two very good games in two wins against us this year," SUU coach Bill Evans said. "So we worked all week on stopping him, and my guys did a great job of defending him."

Helms had as many fouls (three) as points (also three) at halftime and the Golden Grizzlies didn't get a lot of offense going in the first half as a result. OU had just six field goals in the first half and trailed 34-17 at the break, their fewest points in a half this season.

"I think our success on the offensive end had a lot to do with the way we were playing defense," Palmer said. "We were able to get our hands on a lot of balls and get a few easy baskets in transition. Coach told us to be patient in our half-court offense and we'd get good looks and we were. We passed the ball well, and I got some good looks, especially in the first half."

"We had a great defensive effort tonight," said SUU point guard Jay Collins, who finished with nine assists. "They beat us pretty good the last time we played and we knew we would have to give our best effort. We did a good job on Helms and I think that affected the way their other guys played."

Southern Utah faces IUPUI in the semifinals Monday at 7:30 p.m.