DES MOINES, Iowa – The free throw line hadn’t been too friendly to the Northern Arizona Suns all season long, but tonight was a different story.
The Suns made the most free throws in team history, finishing at a 35-of-44 (.795) clip, to beat the Iowa Energy 109-96 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Northern Arizona (22-25) takes the season-series from the Energy 3-1 and snaps a four-game losing streak. It marked the seventh series win for the Suns this season and Iowa’s eighth straight loss.
The game started off well for Iowa (11-36), who jumped out to a quick eight-point lead and saw themselves ahead 26-22 after the first quarter. They boosted that lead to 13 points in the second quarter, shooting well while playing enough defense to keep the Suns at bay. The problem for the home team proved to be the fouls, as NAZ stayed in the game with their free throw shooting.
The Suns shattered their old team record of free throws made of 28 that they did twice earlier this season, with the last one also against the Energy on Dec. 10.
Many of those free throws came from Elijah Millsap, who led all scorers with 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field, 10-of-13 shooting from the free throw line, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. He was one of eight Suns players to make it to the line at least three times Saturday night.
Trailing by six at halftime, Northern Arizona exploded in the third quarter, winning the frame 36-17. Millsap had 13 points in the frame and the Suns got to the charity stripe 18 times in the quarter, making 16 of them.
Millsap was the only player in the game to even reach 20 points, yet alone 30, but five other Suns players managed to get to double figures. Askia Booker tallied 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Derek Cooke Jr. put up 13 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals, with Josh Gray (12 points) and Michael Bryson (12 points) powering the Suns bench. Shaquille Harrison chipped in 10 points.
Wade Baldwin IV and JaKarr Sampson led the way for Iowa with 18 points apiece. Baldwin also tallied six rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Sampson grabbed eight rebounds. Deyonta Davis achieved the game’s lone double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Suns will get a chance to win another series and play spoiler as they head to Sioux Falls to take on the Skyforce tomorrow at 3 p.m. PT. The Energy also plays the Skyforce next, but won’t face them until Tuesday in Sioux Falls at 4:30 PT.