PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — The student has become the teacher.
Northern Arizona Suns Head Coach Cody Toppert led his team to a series clinching win over his former team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, with a 123-117 win at the Prescott Valley Event Center Tuesday night. This was the Suns’ fifth straight win at home, their second longest streak in team history. NAZ improved to 16-18, while RGV fell to 20-17.
Toppert, who used to coach under Vipers’ Matt Brase, played just seven guys tonight, getting big minutes out of each of them.
Some of the biggest minutes came out of former Vipers’ player and current Phoenix Suns’ Two-Way forward/guard Danuel House. House scored a game-high 30 points on 9-of-15 shooting, 4-of-8 from distance, 8-of-8 from the free throw line, to go with seven rebounds and two steals. This was House’s second 30+ point game of the season (33 vs. Texas with RGV on Nov. 29). In his five games in a NAZ Suns uniform, House has averaged 24.6 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“Danuel House, to me, showed today why I thought he was the best affiliate player in the G League before we got him and why he’s been able to help the Phoenix Suns,” Toppert said. “Former Viper, he’s a guy I’ve spent a lot of time with in the offseason in Houston when he was working out with the Rockets. The thing I love about Danuel House is his attitude is always good, it’s always good. I’m here to give him that little kick in the pants so that his effort catches up, but his attitude never wavers and he was huge at the end of this game.”
In a truly back-and-forth affair, every possession mattered down the stretch. There were 18 lead changes and 16 ties, with neither team ever taking a double-digit lead.
Both teams started well from the field and the Vipers took a 33-29 lead after the first. The second was more of the same, with both teams shooting above 50 percent and they knotted the frame at 30. The Suns took control in the third, forcing RGV to shoot 8-of-23 (.348) from the field, as NAZ won the quarter 26-20. In the fourth, House dropped 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 2-of-2 from deep and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe to finish the game. Although the Vipers would get within two twice with less than a minute left, Xavier Silas and House would seal the deal with their free throws.
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson scored a career-high 23 points on Saturday against Santa Cruz, and he did even better tonight, achieving a new career-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, to go with four rebounds and five assists, all off the bench in 37 minutes of play.
Silas extended his lead of most made three-pointers in the NBA G League with five made from distance tonight, tallying 23 points, six rebounds and two steals. Archie Goodwin and Eric Stuteville also reached double-digit scoring, with Goodwin adding 16 points to go with five rebounds and three steals. Stuteville had 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, four rebounds and two steals on his birthday.
Troy Williams led the Vipers with 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 11 rebounds and five steals. His impressive game was cut short when he picked up his sixth foul with a few minutes left.
RJ Hunter and Monte Morris joined Williams above the 20-point mark. Hunter had 25 points, while Morris tallied 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting, nine assists and four steals.
NAZ got pounded on the boards 48-33 but outshot RGV 39-of-74 (.527) to 44-of-92 (.478). The Suns also shot 22 more free throws, shooting 32-of-45 (.711).