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CEDAR CITY -- Maverick senior guard Jace Herl scored 19 points as Mesa State outplayed and outscored the Southern Utah men's basketball team in an exhibition game 67-64 at the Centrum Arena Tuesday night.
"Luckily it was an exhibition game and hopefully it doesn't carry over to our games in the future," SUU senior guard Davis Baker said. "Hopefully we can learn from this game and improve on the things that we need to work on. We're a young team, so hopefully this is a good experience for them to learn what they need to work on and get better as a team."
Baker and sophomore forward Matt Massey led the T-Birds with 16 points apiece in the loss; Massey also led SUU with 12 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Jake Nielson added 13 points for the T-Birds and led the team with four assists.
Three players for the Mavericks finished in double-digit scoring figures, led by Herl. Senior guard Mike Dominguez scored 14 points and senior forward Justin Ashbaugh added 11 points and nine rebounds for Mesa State.
The Mavericks shot 17-for-20 (85 percent) from the free throw line, while SUU, which led all Division I programs with 80 percent shooting from the line, shot only 57 percent in the game.
Reid said the size differential was another factor in the T-Birds' exhibition loss.
"They didn't have a legitimate center, so they ran a five-man motion," SUU head coach Roger Reid said. "They were just killing us with cuts and everything, so we had to go to small line-up and so our big guys didn't really get a chance to play."
Reid said he was disappointed that his team missed nine free throws in a three-point loss.
"Last year we led the nation and now we have a lot of work to do on our free throw shooting," Reid said. "We work on that all the time, but it's just a matter on concentration."
The T-Birds also led just four times in the contest, with the latest lead occurring at the 8:04 mark in the first half and SUU leading 18-17.
The T-Birds started the game slowly, getting down 6-1 before Reid called a timeout at the 15:35 mark in the first half.
After the timeout, SUU stormed back on a 9-1 run in the next two minutes; the run was capped off with a layup by Massey that gave the T-Birds a 10-9 lead.
The teams battled back-and-forth until a layup by Herl gave the Mavericks a 22-18 lead with 7:05 left in the opening half.
Mesa State then extended its lead to 30-20 after a pair of free throws by Herl at the 4:20 mark of the half.
However, SUU nailed three baskets in the next minute to cut the deficit to 30-26; the run was capped off with a layup by Baker off a no-look behind the back pass from Nielson and the Mavericks called another time-out.
The T-Birds were able to crawl withinone point of the Mavericks, trailing 32-31 in the final minute of the first half before heading into the half down 34-31.
Both teams struggled to score to start the second half; SUU eventually took a timeout trailing 37-35 at the 15:53 mark in the second half.
However, Mesa State extended its lead to 47-39 on the strength of a 10-2 run before Reid called a timeout with 13:09 left in the game.
The Mavericks maintained their lead, taking a 61-50 lead at the 6:10 mark with a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Brian Kenshalo.
However, the T-Birds came back to life and a 3-pointer by Nielson helped SUU move within 3 points, trailing 63-60 with 3 minutes left in the game.
Mesa State responded quickly with a layup by Herl, but a pair of free throws by Nielson made it a 65-62 game.
The Mavericks had a 67-62 lead and possession with 1:17 left in the game, when Nielson then forced a jump-ball and the T-Birds regained the ball.
However, SUU then turned the ball over and was unable to cut within three points of the game and lost 67-64.
The T-Birds will return to the court on Friday with a matchup against Adams State for one last exhibition game before the regular season begins.
Tip-off against the Grizzlies is slated for 7 p.m. Friday inside the Centrum Arena.