Utah Tech defeats rival Southern Utah in close game

The Utah Tech University’s mens basketball team celebrates the win against Southern Utah University on Feb 4. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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The Utah Tech University’s men’s basketball team defeated rival school Southern Utah University in a nail-biting game Feb. 4 with a score of 86-79.

The Stampede, along with the Birds Aren’t Real club, filled the student section with support and cheers. The white lie theme featured shirts aimed toward SUU like “birds are real” and “we believe in Thunderbirds.”

Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

Utah Tech started the game off strong with a total score of 47 in the first half and were able to continue the momentum to obtain the win in the second half.

During the first half, Cameron Gooden, a senior recreation and sports management major from Frisco, Texas, led his teammates with 16 points and no fouls. 

Tanner Christensen, a sophomore accounting major from Spokane Valley, Washington, said the team didn’t treat this game differently than any other game this season even with the added pressure of it being against the biggest rival school.

“We just show up, work hard and bring a lot of energy to the game,” Christensen said. “The rivalry factor added extra motivation, and we knew we had to work that much harder to beat these guys.”

During the second half, the pressure to win began to set into the Trailblazers who had a 17-point lead over SUU. Utah Tech started with the ball; however, SUU took charge of the game after layups were missed and brought the score closer than ever at 74-67 with only five minutes left.

Frank Staine, a junior management major from Inglewood, California, subbed in for Gooden during the last minutes of the game and helped push Utah Tech to the lead of 83-76.

Head coach Jon Judkins called a timeout in the last minute to remind the team to continue to play hard.

“Frank’s rebound late in the game is the exact kind of leadership I wanted to see,” Judkins said.

This win instilled confidence in Judkins and the team for the remainder of the season.

Judkins said: “This was a big win for us. The crowd tonight was unbelievable. That helped us like crazy. The first half was probably one of the best first halves we’ve played and everything was clicking. I was proud of how hard our guys stayed in.”

Both teams scored 3-point shots within the last minute of the game ending the game with a score of 86 for Utah Tech and 79 for Southern Utah.

Hoping to continue the momentum of this win, the Trailblazers will take the Seattle Redhawks in Seattle Feb. 8.