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CEDAR CITY -- Southern Utah senior guard Davis Baker scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to guide the T-Bird men's basketball team that overcame a sloppy start to handle Adams State 71-56 in the teams' final exhibition game at the Centrum Arena Friday night.
SUU head coach Roger Reid said he saw improvements in the win from the team's exhibition debut, which ended in a 67-64 loss to Mesa State on Tuesday.
"I thought we showed a little bit more signs of improvement," Reid said. "We still have a long ways to go from our first game. We still can't neglect that fact that we're playing a lot of young folks out there."
The T-Birds committed 22 turnovers in the win, which Reid said was the only negative part of the teams' win.
"The one thing that was not good was our turnovers," he said. "We had 22 turnovers, which is way too many. Our goal is to have 12 or less, but (22) is way too many. That's because guys are trying to force things, trying to make home run passes instead of just letting it happen and make an open pass, we're trying to thread the needles all the time and we have to cut down on that."
However, Reid said he was happy with the progress made with the teams' defense, offense and rebounding.
"Defensively, we stepped it up a little bit and the stats show it, they shot 31 percent," he said. "I thought we also did a better job executing our offense and we rebounded well too."
SUU shot 53 percent from the field, including 67 percent in the second half.
The T-Birds also out-rebounded the Grizzlies 41-21 and 17-7 on assists in the contest; in addition, SUU forced Adams State to shoot 36 percent from the floor and commit 13 turnovers in the second half.
"We did a lot better job this time around getting those rebounds," Baker said. "More guys were crashing the boards harder and we were getting those loose balls and that helped us out a lot."
Baker said the largest factor in the victory compared to the 67-64 loss to Mesa State on Tuesday was the teams' defensive presence.
"It was basically all defense (this time around), we played a lot better defense this time, got more rebounds and that led to more offensive sets for us," he said. "The defense helped out a lot."
Offensively, three T-Bird players finished the game with double-digit figures in scoring.
Baker led all players with his 20 points, including 14 in the second half. Freshman center Dallin Bachynski added 14 points and six rebounds, while sophomore forward Matt Massey tallied 11 points for SUU.
Bachynski played 27 minutes off the bench in the game, mainly because fellow freshman center Matt Hodgson got into early foul trouble.
Hodgson only scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in 10 minutes of play before fouling out of the game.
Bachynski only played a total of seven minutes in the pre-season opener loss to Mesa State because of the small size and quickness of the Mavericks.
He said he was just excited to play this time around.
"I was happy about playing today," Bachynski said. "The ability we had to guard better, we learned a bit more in practice on perimeter defense post-wise, so it was good because I could stay with the perimeter guys and then be able to go in on the offensive end as well."
Senior guard Forrest Becker led the Grizzlies with 13 points and Nate Ingbretson chipped in with 12 more points for Adams State.
Much like the contest against Mesa State, the T-Birds found themselves down early in the first half. SUU committed 11 turnovers during the first 20 minutes and trailed almost the entire first half until a pair of free throws by Baker gave SUU a 29-28 lead into the break.
Baker said Reid stressed the importance of not turning the ball over at halftime, but the team worked past the turnovers.
"Even though we had those turnovers, we still kind of made a run," he said. "I think if we eliminate those turnovers and make those kind of runs, we would have had a lot bigger lead in the end."
The T-Birds outshot Adams State 39 percent to 26 percent from the field in the opening half.
However, Adams State made three more 3-pointers than SUU and the Grizzlies capitalized on the T-Birds' errors.
SUU came out of the halftime break on a 9-2 run to extend its lead and never trailed at any point during the second half.
The T-Birds will begin the regular season Friday in Honolulu against Hawaii in the Hawaii Tip-Off Classic. The game is scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. mountain time.