Suns Defense and Rebounding Get it Done in Oklahoma City

By Jacob Withee | March 5, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The Northern Arizona Suns already knew they were one of the better defensive teams in the league, but what they demonstrated in Oklahoma City Sunday afternoon has to give them even a bigger boost of confidence going forward. The Suns scored 22 points off of 27 Blue turnovers to win at the Cox Convention Center 91-85.

The Suns (19-20) finished a tough four-game stretch with a win, improving to 2-2 against the three best teams in the D-League.

Northern Arizona struggled offensively for most of the game, finishing 35-of-94 (.372) from the field and turning the ball over 23 times themselves. But with 13 steals, eight blocks and 16 offensive rebounds, the Suns did enough to split the season-series 2-2 against the Blue (28-14).

Sunday’s game was a battle for both teams, which perfectly paralleled how the first three matchups of the season went. All four games were decided by six points or less between the two teams, with each taking a home and road game apiece.

Coming off of a loss to Iowa and playing without their top two scoring threats in Dakari Johnson and Reggie Williams, the Blue responded well by taking a two-point lead after the first quarter. Both teams fended off momentum runs the entire game, and the Suns had just a two-point lead with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter. After it was all said and done, there had been nine lead changes and six ties, with the Suns coming up with defensive stops to win it by six.

The Suns corralled 57 rebounds compared to just 40 by the Blue to hand Oklahoma City consecutive losses for the first time since Jan. 10-12, a slide that also involved the Suns.

Northern Arizona, meanwhile, broke their own two-game losing streak.

Rebounding was the name of the game, and Elijah Millsap led everybody with 13 boards to go with five points and four assists. Derek Cooke Jr. posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end.

Xavier Silas led the Suns with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-7 from distance, to go with six rebounds. He averaged 21.2 points over his last five games, making at least three three-pointers in each contest. Askia Booker tallied 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Washington Wizards assignee Chris McCullough recorded 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks in his first game as a member of the Suns.

Alex Davis followed his seven-block performance on Friday with four blocks today. He also added six points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Josh Gray had seven points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench.

Oklahoma City’s Daniel Hamilton led all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting, to go with his 12 rebounds and eight assists. He turned the ball over nine times.

Alex Caruso also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, while Kaleb Tarczewski (20 points and five rebounds) and Chris Wright (10 points) rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Blue.

The Suns will head south to play the Texas Legends in consecutive games starting Tuesday at 6 p.m. MT. The Blue will continue its five-game homestand with the fourth installment on Wednesday against the Long Island Nets at 10 a.m. MT.

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