HIDALGO, Texas – The Northern Arizona Suns came into Tuesday’s night game with the hottest offense in the league, averaging 127.7 points per game.
The Suns held to that average, but came just one made basket short of taking a win from Rio Grande Valley on the road. Northern Arizona lost its first road game of the season 128-127.
There were 20 lead changes and 11 ties in this one, as NAZ Suns head coach Cody Toppert faced his former team where he served as an assistant coach the last two seasons.
The Suns battled back from a 14-point deficit to take a 12-point lead of their own in the middle of the fourth quarter. Vipers guard RJ Hunter went on a personal 8-0 run to make the game close again, and it would stay that way the remainder of regulation.
Trailing by one with 15.4 seconds left, Derrick Jones Jr. secured a rebound on the defensive end and was immediately fouled by Chinanu Onuaku. Jones went to the free throw line and sank both shots, giving the Suns a 127-126 lead. Vipers guard Briante Weber followed by driving through the lane to give his squad a 128-127 lead, and Josh Gray missed a three-point shot at the buzzer that would have given the Suns (2-2) the game.
Alec Peters and Gray powered the Suns, each tallying 30+ point games.
Peters lit it up, achieving a game-high 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including 8-of-12 from beyond the arc. He came just one three-pointer short of tying Xavier Silas’ mark on March 12, 2017, vs. Sioux Falls for the most three-point makes in NAZ Suns history. It marked Peters’ third game for NAZ. He had tallied 18 points combined over the first two.
Gray tied his career-high with 30 points in his second start of the year. He had notched 30 points in his first start this season during the season-opener. The Louisiana State alum also added six rebounds and five assists.
Askia Booker, who entered tonight averaging the second most points in the league (32.3 PPG), recorded 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Anthony Bennett achieved the lone double-double for the Suns with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson was the spark off the bench with 12 points, four steals and a block.
Besides getting the winning bucket to go for the Vipers, Weber led his team in scoring with 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block. Hunter (20 points), Daniel House (18 points), Troy Williams (17 points), Monte Morris (14 points), Chris Walker (11 points) and Isaiah Hartenstein (11 points) all had double-digit scoring games for Rio Grande Valley, with Hartenstein notching a double-double (12 rebounds).
Rio Grande Valley outshot the Suns 47-of-86 (.547) to 41-of-99 (.414), and also outrebounded them 51-41.
Northern Arizona will return home for one game against the Long Island Nets on Thursday at the Prescott Valley Event Center at 6:30 p.m. MT. before heading to Salt Lake City on Saturday. Rio Grande Valley heads to Sioux Falls for a back-to-back set against the Skyforce starting on Friday at 6 p.m. MT.