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MACOMB, Ill. — Southern Utah pulled down 44 rebounds, including 18 offensive rebounds, but were not able to capitalize on the extra opportunities as 24 turnovers led to a 50-45 defeat at Western Illinois on Monday night. Southern Utah (6-21, 4-12 in the Summit League) benefitted from a cold shooting Western Illinois (10-17 and 6-10) squad in the opening minutes of the game, holding the Fighting Leathernecks without a field goal from the floor until the 9:40 mark. However, the Thunderbirds were not able to capitalize on the cold spell, shooting only 31 percent during the first 20 minutes.
SUU dominated Western Illinois on the boards during the first half, recording 26 rebounds, including 11 offensive rebounds, to the Leathernecks' total of ten.
The icy touch from the first half was passed to the Thunderbirds as the second half opened as Southern Utah struggled to find its first shot until the 13:19 mark. Western Illinois used the lull to build a lead of seven, 29-22 with 12:15 to play.
SUU head coach JR Payne called a timeout at 12:15 and the team seemed to wake up, hitting the next 3-of-4 shots, including a pair of 3-point shots, and built a 10-2 run to cut into the Western lead and bring the score within one point, 33-32, with 9:43 remaining.
However, Western Illinois answered with an 11-2 run to grow the margin to double digits, building the lead to 12, 46-34, with 3:28 to play. A barrage of 3-point baskets during the final minute by Southern Utah made the game interesting, but time was not in the Thunderbirds' favor as the final whistle blew with Western taking the 50-45 victory.
Despite the loss, Southern Utah clinched a spot in the Summit League tournament as IUPUI lost to UMKC earlier in the day. SUU will close out its regular season this coming weekend when the Thunderbirds host Centenary and Oral Roberts.