Suns Back to .500 After Pounding Boards, Beating Warriors

By Jacob Withee | November 21, 2019

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The Northern Arizona Suns entered Thursday night’s contest at Santa Cruz as the best shooting team in the NBA G League, but the game was decided on the boards this time around.

The Suns (2-2) moved back to .500 after beating the Warriors (3-3) 109-100. This was Northern Arizona’s first ever win at Santa Cruz, having lost their first six games on the road at the Warriors, also snapping a six-game series losing streak.

Northern Arizona got it done at the Kaiser Permanente Arena by getting physical inside, securing 50 rebounds compared to Santa Cruz’s 37. That led to 20 second chance points for NAZ thanks to 13 offensive rebounds, compared to 10 second chance points for Santa Cruz. In a game that was 10 points or closer for the entirety, it was the will of the Suns that made the difference.

Jared Harper led all scorers with 20 points, to go with five rebounds and four assists. He’s scored 20 points in all three games he’s played, and he now holds the record for most points scored (81) in a Suns player’s first three games in team history, surpassing Danuel House’s 77 points through his first three games in 2017-18.

Tariq Owens secured his second double-double in four games with 17 points (7-10 FG), 13 rebounds and four blocks. He’s averaging 11.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks on the year. ShawnDre Jones joined him with a double-double of his own, recording 12 points (6-10 FG), 11 assists and two steals off the bench. That’s back-to-back double-doubles for Jones, his first such career stretch. Over his last five games, he’s tallied three double-doubles and has averaged 9.8 assists per game.

Norense Odiase joined Owens with 13 rebounds of his own in 19 minutes. The Suns had 10 players score tonight, with six in double figures; Anthony Lawrence II (14 points, 6-10 FG, 2-5 3PT, five rebounds), Daxter Miles Jr. (13 points, four assists, two steals), Jalen Lecque (11 points, four assists, two steals).

Once again, the Suns jumped out to a nice first quarter cushion, this time 27-20. Their offense was hard to stop in the second quarter, as they saw a double-digit lead for the third game in the four they’ve played this season. The Warriors battled back to make it 60-52 Suns at halftime, with the Suns up 33-16 in rebounds.

Santa Cruz clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter, taking the frame 24-21 to enter the fourth quarter down 81-76. In the final frame, the Suns held off Santa Cruz by forcing them to shoot 7-of-20 (.350) from the field while shooting 11-of-20 (.550) themselves.

The Suns outshot their opponent for the fourth time this year, 44-of-92 (.478) to 30-of-78 (.385). Despite shooting 9-of-36 (.250) from downtown compared to Santa Cruz’s 13-of-32 (.406) clip, NAZ had the better ends of assists (27-16), points in the paint (56-30) and fast break points (33-9). The Warriors were led by Vander Blue’s 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 4-of-5 from distance.

The Suns will head back home to host their fourth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night, presented by the Yavapai Regional Medical Center, on Saturday. It will be a 5 p.m. MT tip against the Lakeland Magic. The Warriors also play next on Saturday at the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at 6:30 p.m. MT.

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