Suns Get Back to .500 with Wire-to-Wire Victory Over Bulls

By Jacob Withee | February 23, 2017

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — The Northern Arizona Suns hadn’t played at the Prescott Valley Event Center since Feb. 4, so following a 3-2 road trip, the return home was sure to energize the team. No doubt the fans, along with the returns of both Johnny O’Bryant and Derrick Jones Jr., fueled the Suns in their 103-92 win over the Windy City Bulls on Wednesday.

The Suns (17-17) vastly outshot the Bulls (14-18), shooting a 39-of-83 (.470) clip compared to Windy City’s 37-of-97 (.381) mark from the field. NAZ forced a new opponent season-low from beyond the arc, only allowing the Bulls to make four three-point field goals on the night and to shoot just 16.7 percent from downtown, both of which were season-bests for the defense.

O’Bryant hadn’t played for Northern Arizona since Jan. 20, as he was called up by the Denver Nuggets. There he tallied 20 points in 46 total minutes for the NBA’s current Western Conference eight-seed. O’Bryant was an immediate force in the game tonight, scoring seven points in the first quarter and finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds.

“I didn’t want to see (O’Bryant) back, just to be honest with you. I talked to people in Denver, they were really happy with him, and I’m praying that someone else gives him another shot,” Suns head coach Ty Ellis said. “(O’Bryant) is an NBA player. He has NBA professionalism. Everything about him is NBA and I really hope that somebody takes him from me.”

Also making his return was Jones, who hadn’t played since Jan. 20, as well. The man known as “Airplane Mode” tallied 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and five blocks.

In what ended up being a chippy game, as there were six technical fouls between the two teams including a Will Bynum ejection, the Bulls made a run in the third quarter to make things interesting. Although they never could get over the hump and tie the game, Windy City was sparked by Bynum’s ejection and went on an 18-6 run to only trail by four points with 1:34 left in the third frame. That was as close as they’d get, however, as Northern Arizona followed that spark with a 7-0 run of its own to end the third period.

Elijah Millsap led all scorers with 26 points, to go along with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. It was his second straight game scoring 25+ points.

“Elijah Millsap is an NBA player. He is a consummate professional. He understands the in’s and out’s, and he’s so coachable and he helps the young guys, so yes he is an NBA player and I’m happy with his game tonight,” Ellis said.

Jarell Eddie led the Bulls with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting, to go with eight rebounds. Alfonzo McKinnie had the game’s lone double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Josh Gray was the main force off the bench for NAZ, earning 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting and three rebounds.

The Suns hit the road for a quick one-game trip, as they head to Austin to take on the Spurs on Friday at 6:30 p.m. MT. The Bulls will continue their five-game road trip with their second installment coming against the Los Angles D-Fenders on Friday at 8:30 p.m. MT.