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ST. GEORGE -- Coming off a near upset at Utah State, the Thunderbird men's basketball team has its eyes set on home slate with Southern Virginia and Troy this week — in between the Thanksgiving holiday.
Southern Utah (3-2) will host Division III Southern Virginia Wednesday night before taking on Troy Saturday night inside the Centrum Arena.
The T-Birds are coming off a 65-62 loss at Utah State, which boosted the confidence of SUU — despite the loss. SUU led at the break in Logan and by as much as seven points, before the Aggies stormed back to win the game. The T-Birds were also within a 3-pointer of sending the game into overtime Saturday, but guard Wade Collie's attempt fell short.
T-Bird Head Coach Roger Reid said SUU was on the verge of one of its largest wins in recent history, citing USU's home record in game.
The Aggies haven't lost a game at home since Dec. 5, 2009, which came at the hands of St. Mary's.
I don't think people realized how close we came to having one of the big wins in (SUU history). We were one shot away from having a chance to win there.
"I don't think people realized how close we came to having one of the big wins in (SUU history)," Reid said. "We were one shot away from having a chance to win there. It was a great effort by our basketball team … I've never been more proud of a basketball team. Sure we wanted to win — we didn't go up there to come close."
T-Bird guard Ray Jones said he thought it was a message to opponents that SUU is better than it used to be.
"It shows how good we are and how good we can be," he said. "That loss definitely hurt, but we did take out that we are a really good team. I think everyone sees that, I think we made a little noise and people will start to pay a little bit more attention to how good we are if we continue to work hard."
SUU forward Matt Massey said he has tried to distance himself from a flagrant foul called on him with 22 seconds left in regulation when SUU trailed by just one point, but said it might have made a difference in the outcome of the game.
USU had possession of the ball when forward Morgan Grim was foul hard by Massey while going up for a layup. The referee called a flagrant foul, which granted Grim a pair of free throws and the Aggies' possession of the ball.
"I clearly got the ball," Massey said. "Yeah I might have followed through and hit him, but when does that not happen when you foul someone? It was 22 seconds left in a one-possession game — the ref really took a possession away from us, down one with a minute to go."
SUU will now look to build on its close matchup last week with games against Southern Virginia Wednesday and Troy Saturday.
We have to really take care of business. It's a week where our season can really go one of two ways: we can go back to being .500 or we can go out to being like 5-2.
"We have to really take care of business," Massey said. "It's a week where our season can really go one of two ways: we can go back to being .500 or we can go out to being like 5-2." Despite being a Division III program, Jones said the team won't overlook the Knights.
"Coach always tells us to respect every opponent, but fear no opponent," Jones said. "We're just going at each opponent — train the game way, go hard."
Afterward, the T-Birds will practice on Thanksgiving in preparation for the team's next matchup Saturday against Troy.
Reid said he always schedules practices on Thanksgiving, so the team can get better and so players will relish their Thanksgiving dinner.
"I want my players to enjoy Thanksgiving and the best way to do that is when you're hungry," he said.
The T-Birds will then take on Troy Saturday inside the Centrum Arena, as a part of a home-and-home series this season with the Trojans.
Troy (1-3) is coming off a 71-59 loss at Alabama- Birmingham and has had close losses this season to Texas Tech and East Tennessee State.
"(They're) very athletic," Reid said. "It's going to be a big test. They're quick and strong and a lot like San Diego State in the way the plays."
The two home games are extra important for the T-Birds because they are the final two games before heading into their first conference road test at Oral Roberts on Dec. 2
"These nonconference games help prepare us for those conference games," he said. "These all build up for those games … we want to play well before heading into those conference games."
Tipoff against SVU is slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday, while the T-Birds will face Troy at 7 p.m. Saturday inside the Centrum Arena.