NAZ Suns open G League Showcase with win over Erie

NBA Gatorade League

Northern Arizona's Josh Gray (5) moves into the lane as the Suns take on the Long Island Nets on Nov. 16, 2017, in Prescott Valley. Gray led the Suns to their third straight win, scoring 24 points in a 102-96 victory over Erie at the NBA Gatorade League Showcase on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Ontario, Canada. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

Northern Arizona's Josh Gray (5) moves into the lane as the Suns take on the Long Island Nets on Nov. 16, 2017, in Prescott Valley. Gray led the Suns to their third straight win, scoring 24 points in a 102-96 victory over Erie at the NBA Gatorade League Showcase on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Ontario, Canada. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, File)

A few days after winning NBA Gatorade League Player of the Week, Josh Gray was at it again Wednesday afternoon in Canada, scoring a game-high 24 points and leading Northern Arizona to a 102-96 win over the Erie BayHawks.

“He’s always been outstanding in his ability coming off the bench. He’s mentally tough. Now, he’s coming into a new leadership role, he’s getting extra work in the film room … and he’s a father now. That is rubbing off on the rest of our guys. I’m proud on how our guys have responded,” first-year Suns head coach Cody Toppert said in a phone interview Wednesday night.

It is the third-straight win for the Suns (10-14), which remain undefeated in 2018 and haven’t trailed an opponent in 11 straight quarters.

The season-high three-game winning streak couldn’t have come at a better time for Northern Arizona, which is scheduled for two games at the annual G League Showcase in Mississauga, Ontario, where nearly every NBA club’s scouting department is represented.

Northern Arizona capitalized on five early turnovers by the BayHawks in the first quarter, using a 23-9 run capped by an Xavier Silas 3-pointer to take a 33-16 lead with 1:01 remaining and the Suns never looked back.

Silas finished with 17 points on 6 of 14 shooting from the field.

Of the five Suns that finished in double-figures scoring, Mike Young recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, while Alec Peters hit four 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds to go along with his 14 points.

Northern Arizona shot 42.9 percent from the field (33 of 77), and were nearly perfect from the free-throw line, hitting 21 of 23 attempts.

Erie (11-15) outrebounded the Suns 53-44, outscored them 48-32 in the paint and tallied 25 second-chance points despite the loss.

“It’s an anomaly, and not a pattern we want to continue,” Toppert said about getting beat in the three key areas. “We have to get better at finishing plays with defensive rebounds. That has to be a focus of ours to finish out possession.”

Jeremy Hollowell led the BayHawks with 19 points, while Raphiael Putney had a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds.

GOODWIN DEBUT

On Monday, Northern Arizona completed a three-team trade that brought Archie Goodwin back to the Phoenix Suns organization.

Goodwin made his 2017-18 Suns debut Wednesday by scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

“The additions we’ve made have been positive leadership-type people,” Toppert said. “Archie hasn’t even been with us 48 hours yet and you can see it. He’s been great, and the guys have responded well to bringing him into the fold.”

Northern Arizona sent a 2018 first-round pick, originally owned by Delaware, and a second-round pick, originally owned by Windy City, to Greensboro in exchange for Goodwin. Greensboro also received Roscoe Smith from Erie, while the BayHawks received Greensboro’s first round pick for 2018, originally owned by Wisconsin.

The Suns’ picks traded to Greensboro were acquired in recent trades that sent Askia Booker to Delaware (1st round) and Anthony Bennett to Maine (2nd Round).

Goodwin originally played for the Bakersfield Jam after starring at Kentucky and earning All-SEC freshmen honors in 2013. He was a 2012 McDonald’s All-American.

UP NEXT

The Suns wrap up their Showcase pair of games Friday against the Canton Charge. The game is scheduled to be featured on ESPNU. Tipoff is set for 10 a.m. Arizona time.

Northern Arizona finishes its season-long seven-game road trip Thursday, Jan. 18, in Texas as they play the Austin Spurs. The Suns will return home Saturday, Jan. 20, to host the Salt Lake City Stars. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Prescott Valley Event Center.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier, the Prescott Valley Tribune and the Chino Valley Review. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52 or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.