PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona Suns got off to a great start on Tuesday night in their rematch against the Santa Cruz Warriors, but turnovers and fouls hurt them in the end.
The Warriors improved to 5-0, extending what is already the best start in franchise history by beating the Suns (1-4) for the second time this season, this time 115-112 at the Prescott Valley Event Center.
After a slow first two minutes for both teams, the Suns exploded, making 10 consecutive field goals over five minutes of game time to take a 22-9 lead. The Suns held a 36-24 advantage after the first quarter, where they made 15-of-20 (.750) from the field, 4-of-6 (.667) from distance and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.
The Suns’ lead got to 18 points a few times in the second quarter before Santa Cruz knocked it down to an eight-point game at halftime. The Warriors took their first lead at 75-74 with 6:03 left in the third quarter, a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game. Santa Cruz’s lead never grew to double-digits as the second half was a battle between both squads, but in the end, the Suns couldn’t come up with the W.
Northern Arizona outshot Santa Cruz in the game 43-of-81 (.531) to 44-of-93 (.473). NAZ made 12 more three-pointers, making 18-of-41 (.439) compared to SCW’s 6-of-24 (.250) clip. Santa Cruz got to the line 17 more times, making 13 more free throws, also winning the rebound battle 47-38. NAZ turned it over 23 times which led to 36 Warriors’ points, while getting 15 takeaways for 19 points. The Warriors outscored the Suns in the paint 68-42 and 26-2 in second chance points.
Aaron Epps, who did not play in the first matchup between these two teams, had a monster game, recording 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc, 13 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 31 minutes. He earned his first double-double in his first start of his career.
Peter Jok also reached the 20-point mark with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-7 from downtown. Phoenix Suns’ assignee Elie Okobo played his first game in the NBA G League and earned a double-double right away, tallying 15 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Eric Stuteville made his first start of the year, notching 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and six rebounds, while Daniel Dixon led the bench with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and four assists.
Santa Cruz’s Kendrick Nunn led the way with 26 points off the bench, also adding four rebounds, three assists and five steals. Darius Morris followed his triple-double with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists, with Antonius Cleveland also putting up a solid game with 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
The Suns stay at home to take on the Agua Caliente Clippers on Friday at their Breast Cancer Awareness Night, beginning at 7 p.m. MT. The Warriors will look to stay unbeaten as they head back home to face the South Bay Lakers on Friday at 8 p.m. MT.