Southern Utah coach Bill Evans joked Friday night that maybe his guys were just dumb enough to think they could walk away with a win over Utah. He then followed that up saying "I'm always dumb."
Maybe it's not such a bad thing to play dumb after all.
Returning one starter and only five letter-winners from last year's team that finished 10-20 on the season, the Thunderbirds walked into the Huntsman Center and grabbed a 76-73 victory over the Utes. It was just the second time in school history the T-Birds have defeated the Utes — all games being played at the Huntsman Center.
"When you play someone enough, it's just going to happen sooner or later,"
said Evans. "We shot the ball much better than I thought we would shoot it. The right guys shot the right shots and were very unselfish."
The biggest shot for the Thunderbirds came with 38 seconds left to play in the game. Steve Barnes, the lone returning starter, dropped a deep jump shot that gave SUU a 74-73 lead.
"My little point guard (Barnes) is married, has a child and I don't think I've had anybody who plays harder," said Evans. "He's the strongest guy on the team. He's the guy I want to do the things at the end."
Barnes led SUU with 17 points, shooting 7-of-9 on the night. He dished out five assists and nabbed six defensive rebounds.
The guard was able to help the play develop after coach Evans picked up one of Utah's defensive schemes.
"Coach noticed that they were switching on the ball screen so if we could switch it and get it right back something would come of it, and it did," explained Barnes.
Earning all-Mid Continent Conference honorable mention last year, Barnes' expectations for the season were somewhat mixed.
"I was a little bit scared, you could say, coming into this year," he said. "I think we still have a lot to learn about the system, but we bring a more athletic team this year.
"It's really nice to see unselfish ball. We're hoping to use that unselfishness all year — not really focus on one guy. It's tough to defend if you've got everybody scoring who comes into the game.
Southern Utah had nine guys score in the win, including three in double figures.