Hailey Mandelko led SUU with 11 points in the win
SUU Strategic Communications

Southern Utah Triumphs in Big Sky Debut

December 20, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Grand Forks, N.D. Dec. 20 – Southern Utah held on for a 60-54 win at North Dakota Thursday night to claim a big road victory in its first Big Sky contest. In what turned out to be a tightly contested matchup, the T-Birds pulled ahead on several occasions only to see UND come back each time. SUU was able to fend off the final rally however, holding its opponent scoreless over the final two minutes of the game to come away with the win.

Senior Kimie Hawkins got things going early for the Thunderbirds, recording six of Southern Utah’s first 12 points of the game as SUU went up by a count of 12-8 eight minutes in. North Dakota would then answer back with a 9-2 run to take a 17-14 lead.

The T-Birds quickly recovered as Tayler Anderson and Lori Parkinson recorded consecutive lay-ups between a pair of threes from Andrea Jones to go up 26-20. UND rallied again in the closing moments of the half however to even the score at 31-31 heading into the break.

Hawkins and Jones each had six points in the early going as Southern Utah shot the ball 41.4 percent from the floor as a team. North Dakota got eight points from Nicole Smart in the opening period and held a 22-16 rebounding advantage over the Thunderbirds.

The T-Birds came out cold in the second half, missing their first five field goal attempts, but still managed to hold a 36-35 lead after Anderson and Marquelle Funk connected on a pair of jumpers near the 15-minute mark.

Sofia Hepworth helped SUU continued to build momentum over the next five minutes as she hit back-to-back shots during a 9-0 run that saw the Thunderbirds take their largest lead of the game up to that point with the score at 47-38.

North Dakota worked to narrow the margin to six at 47-41, but Hailey Mandelko got open from the top of the arc to answer with a three and push the lead back to nine with six minutes to play.

Things would get interesting down the stretch as Cy’erra Mills hit a three to cap a 13-4 UND run and bring her team back within one at 55-54 with two minutes left on the clock. Moreland then scored another big basket for the Thunderbirds however while Mandelko and Funk added three free throws in the final 20 seconds to help SUU hold on for the 60-54 victory.

Mandelko led a balanced offensive attack with 11 points and Jones chipped in another 10. Hawkins finished with seven points in the game to go along with a team-high nine rebounds. Emily Evers and Smart each had 13 for North Dakota.
UND held a 42-35 rebounding advantage on the night and shot 40 percent from the floor to Southern Utah’s 37.5 percent, but also gave up 26 turnovers. SUU also doubled up its opponents at the free throw line, converting on 15-of-24 attempts.

The Thunderbirds earn their fourth-straight win to improve to 6-4 on the year and 1-0 in Big Sky play. North Dakota starts the season 0-1 in conference play and 4-5 overall.

Southern Utah will be back in action next Saturday for a rematch with in-state rival Utah Valley. The T-Birds and Wolverines will tip-off an SUU basketball doubleheader in the Centrum Arena at 5 p.m.