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CEDAR CITY -- Junior forward Matt Massey scored a game-high 17 points and added seven rebounds to guide the Southern Utah men's basketball team to a 73-67 exhibition win over Carroll College Wednesday night inside the Centrum Arena.
"It was a positive win, but we have a lot to work on," Massey said. "There's a lot of things we need to do better: post defense, rebounding — they had 20 offensive rebounds tonight — we just got come (to practice) tomorrow and get better."
It took SUU nearly four minutes to take it first lead of the night. The after a back-and-forth battle, SUU took an 18-17 lead at the 12:15 mark of the first half. The T-Birds never trailed in the game from that point forward.
The T-Birds' largest lead came 26 seconds before half, when Massey drove in and maneuvered around the Fighting Saints' defense for a layup, which gave SUU a 42-28 advantage.
However, Carroll College battled back and cut the deficit to six points with a chance to trim it down to four points with 7:07 left in the game, but SUU junior forward Ramell Taylor stopped a fast break opportunity when he swatted Carroll's senior guard Sam Cartmell from behind.
The ball ricocheted to Carroll College senior center Chase Godecke for another quick layup opportunity but Taylor recovered to block Godecke's shot.
Taylor said he knew he had to help his team out on the defensive end after the steal.
"I had the angle on him and we don't give up baskets around here," he said. "That's my mentality. Whenever I can take advantage of that, I'm going to go ahead and use my athleticism and tell them 'not in my house.'"
The T-Birds kept control for the rest of the game after the back-to-back blocks by Taylor.
"I know it's an exhibition game, but its fun to win," SUU Head Coach Roger Reid said. "We still have a lot of work to be where we want to be but its good."
SUU shot 51 percent (27-for-53) from the field, but just 58 percent (19-of-33) from the free throw line. The T-Birds also picked up 19 assists in the game but committed 19 turnovers.
Massey said the first thing the team will work on is the free throw shooting.
"One thing coach Reid is known for is free throw shooting teams," he said. "Tomorrow we'll just go shoot hundreds."
Reid, who has coached four different free throw national champion teams in his career, said he plans to have each player shooting 80 free throws at practice after the game.
"If we hit our free throws, it wouldn't have even been a (close) game (in the second half)," he said.
Jones added 12 points and five assists, while Nielson contributed with nine points and nine rebounds for the T-Birds.
However, Massey said the key to victory was the T-Birds defensive presence.
"I thought in the first half our defensive pressure was miles ahead of where it was (in the team's Montana-Western loss)," he said. "That's what got us going."
Taylor and sophomore guard Jordan Weirick finished the game with nine apiece, while Taylor finished with three blocks.
Taylor, who played 24 minutes off the bench, said he still isn't fully recovered from his hernia surgery last month.
"I'm not quite 100 percent but I don't make excuses," he said. "I'll take me at 70 or 80 percent over someone else at 100 percent, so whenever I step on the court — I don't use (my injury) as an excuse — I just go out there and play to the best of my abilities."
SUU will tipoff the regular season Monday against California-Baptist. The game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.