Today: Jul 03 , 2020

Suns’ Defense Goes Missing, Can’t Finish Sweep Of Stars

02 February 2017   Jake Withee
All photos by Matt Hinshaw/NAZ Suns

NAZ allowed Salt Lake City to score almost 20 points more than their average, shoot 50.0 percent

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. -– The Northern Arizona Suns hadn’t played a game at the Prescott Valley Event Center since Jan. 14, so a trip home after a winless second half of the month was a welcome sight. The change of scenery didn’t mean a change in their recent slump though, as the Suns lost to the Salt Lake City Stars Wednesday night 115-92.

The Suns (12-15) missed out on earning their first sweep in team history. They had won the first three games of the series by an average of 17.0 points per game, but the two teams hadn’t faced off since Nov. 29.

This Stars team looked a lot different to the Suns, especially since Salt Lake City (9-20) had two assignees on its team this time around in Joel Bolomboy and Diamond Stone, neither of whom were on the squad in the first three meetings. Both shined in the Stars’ win, putting forth an offensive effort the team isn’t used to seeing.

Salt Lake City entered the game as the only team in the D-League not averaging at least 100 points, putting up 95.8 points per game. The Suns have the third best defense in the league, so a low-scoring game was expected, but instead the Stars scored almost 20 points above their average.

The game was tied at 52 at halftime before the Suns shot 6-of-21 in the third quarter. They lost the frame 29-15.

“Our second and third quarters haven’t been good,” Suns head coach Ty Ellis said. “I don’t know, I think our guys are focusing too much on the offensive end, and that carries over to the defensive end. I just told them I never fuss to them about offense. Shots, they come and go, but we’re playing selfish on the defensive end. We’re not helping the helper. We don’t have our brother’s back.

“We can lose to any team in this league, that’s how professional sports is. But how we lose -- that team wanted it more. It doesn’t matter if we beat them three times before, every game is different and having a young group, that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”

Sundiata Gaines and Tyrone Wallace led all scorers with 22 points apiece. Gaines earned his on 9-of-15 shooting with four rebounds and five assists, while Wallace shot 8-of-13 from the field, to go with eight rebounds and five assists.

The Stars finished the game shooting 41-of-82 (.500), while the Suns only managed 33-of-91 (.363).

Elijah Millsap was the leading scorer for Northern Arizona, earning his with seven rebounds and two steals. Xavier Silas scored 14 points, Josh Gray tallied 11 points and five rebounds, while Derek Cooke Jr. achieved a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Gracin Bakumanya earned a new career-high of 11 points, while also adding eight rebounds and two steals.

The two assignees for the Stars each chipped in at least 15 points. Bolomboy achieved a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds, with Stone adding 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

The Suns remain home at the Prescott Valley Event Center, where they will take on the Santa Cruz Warriors on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Stars head right back where they just were, as they play at Reno once again on Friday at 8 p.m. MT.

Photo Gallery:

All photos by Matt Hinshaw/NAZ Suns