PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – Aaron Epps straight up would not be denied.
The Northern Arizona Suns forward grabbed a team-record 18 rebounds, powering the team in a big come-from-behind victory over the hottest team in the NBA G League on Tuesday night. The Suns beat the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 117-112 at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
Epps’ 18 rebounds are the most rebounds in a game by a Suns player in team history. He bested three different 17-rebound games by Suns players, one by Elijah Millsap and two by Johnny O’Bryant in 2016-17. Epps also scored a career-high 28 points (previous high was 26 points on Feb. 2 vs. Delaware) on 12-of-16 shooting, to go with two blocks. He’s the ninth player in the NBA G League this season with a 28+ point, 18+ rebound game. He earned the fourth 25+ point, 15+ rebound game in NAZ Suns history, the first since Alec Peters did it on Nov. 18, 2017, at Salt Lake City.
Epps’ heroics were part of a huge Suns’ bench performance, as the reserves combined for 63 points on 25-of-45 (.556) shooting, 26 rebounds, four steals and four blocks. The bench outscored the Vipers’ reserves 63-38.
It took a gritty effort from the home team to win this one. The Suns fell behind 11-0 right off the jump. They knotted it back up at the end of the first quarter 30-30 and the score remained tied at halftime, 53-53. The third quarter started much like the start of the game, with the Vipers jumping out on a 9-0 run to lead 62-53. Rio Grande Valley held full control, winning the third quarter 38-19 to take their biggest lead of the night at 19 points. Then the fourth quarter happened.
The Suns came all the way back from 19 down to win, tying the largest comeback win in team history (vs. Oklahoma City on Jan. 23, 2018). Both times the Suns made 19-point fourth quarter comebacks. Northern Arizona won the final frame tonight 45-21, as they made 15-of-23 (.652) from the field and 8-of-9 (.889) from three-point range. This was Northern Arizona’s second highest scoring quarter in team history, just short of the 46 points they scored in the third quarter vs. Reno on Dec. 3, 2016. The Vipers meanwhile made just 7-of-21 (.333) in the frame, including 1-of-9 (.111) from distance.
The Suns (8-31) snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 3-0 all-time in their last game before the All-Star break. The Vipers (26-13) entered the contest on a four-game winning streak and had won 17 of their past 20 games. They dropped from the second-seed in the West to third place with the loss.
Daxter Miles Jr. scored 15 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-6 shooting (3-of-4 3PT). He also added five rebounds, three assists and a career-high four steals in the game. Peter Jok earned his eighth 20+ point game of the season with 21 points tonight on 6-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-7 from long range. He also added three steals.
Retin Obasohan continued his career-best stretch of play with 18 points (10-14 FT), nine assists and seven rebounds. Trayvon Palmer added 10 points and a block off the bench.
Each member of the Vipers’ starting five scored in double figures, led by Michael Frazier’s 22 points, to go with five rebounds and five assists. Former NAZ Suns forward Danuel House Jr. achieved a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, as did Chris Walker off the bench (10 points, 10 rebounds).
The Suns will now enjoy a week-long break, next facing off against the South Bay Lakers on Feb. 20 in Prescott Valley at 6:30 p.m. MT. The Vipers also don’t play until Feb. 20, when they play at the Oklahoma City Blue at 6 p.m. MT.