Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah Jan. 5 – Senior forward Kimie Hawkins scored a career-high 22 points to help Southern Utah pick up a 79-71 win over visiting Sacramento State on Saturday night. With the win the Thunderbirds start 2-1 in conference play and improve their overall record to 8-5 while the Hornets drop to 1-2 and 6-6 respectively.
“The key tonight for Kimie was that she was being extremely tenacious, it didn’t matter who was defending her,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “I thought our entire team did a good job of playing calm, but aggressive.”
Sacramento State jumped out to a 10-2 advantage after hitting five of its first eight shots of the night. Tayler Anderson and Sofia Hepworth helped the Thunderbirds pull back within three with a couple of scores, but Sadie Clements answered with a three for the Hornets as they went up 16-9 nearing the 12-minute mark.
Southern Utah came back with a 10-2 run over the next three minutes to take its first lead of the game at 20-18. Carli Moreland came off the bench for six-quick points during the run and Marquelle Funk sank a shot from the outside to help SUU go up by two.
After falling behind again as the result of an 8-3 run by Sac State, the Thunderbirds retook the lead with five minutes remaining in the first half as Desiree Jackson connected from beyond the arc to make the score 28-26.
Hawkins then dropped in a twisting shot inside to push the advantage to four.
Her and Jackson would combine to score the final 15 points of the half for the T-Birds who built a 38-33 advantage heading into the intermission.
Hawkins battled inside for 10 points and dished out three assists for Southern Utah in the early going while Jackson chipped in another seven. Kylie Kuhns led Sacramento with 11 points and six rebounds at the break. Both teams shot around 40 percent in the opening half while SUU held a 24-19 advantage on the glass.
The Thunderbirds cranked up the pressure in the second half, opening the period on a 9-0 run to push its lead into the double figures. Funk got things going with a basket inside and Hawkins ended the run with a three-point play to make the score 47-33 less than two minutes in.
“Those first two minutes allowed us to be more tenacious on defense and for us to have eyes up and see people down court is always good,” commented Payne. “That really set the tone for the way we finished the game.”
Sac State pulled within six on a jumper by Takara Burse with 11:45 to play, but Funk drained her third three of the night on the ensuing possession to put the Thunderbirds back up by nine at 56-47.
SUU would increase its lead to as many as 14 in the final minutes before eventually coming away with the 79-71 victory.
The T-Birds had four players score in the double-figures, as along with Hawkins 22, SUU got 13 from Funk, 12 from Jackson and a double-double from Anderson who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sadie Clements went 5-9 from three for a team-best 17 points for the visitors while Kuhns recorded 13 and 11 for the Hornets.
Southern Utah outshot its opponents 44.1 to 41.5 percent in the contest and dominated the glass with 52 rebounds to Sacramento’s 33. The Thunderbirds were also able to turn 22 offensive boards into 44 second chance points. Both sides finished with 26 turnovers, but SUU tallied five more assists.
“We have to remember who we are,” explained Payne. “When we come out more aggressive like we did tonight we see that we can play with anybody.”
The Thunderbirds will take to the road in Big Sky play next week with trips scheduled to Idaho State and Weber State. SUU will start things off against the Bengals on Thursday at 7 p.m. before its meets in-state rival Weber State for the first time as a conference foe on Saturday at 2 p.m. Live coverage of the games will be available on www.suutbirds.com.
Sat. Feb. 28
vs. North Dakota
(W) 73 -66
Thu. Feb. 26
vs. Northern Colorado
(L) 66 -88
Sat. Feb. 21
(L) 49 -76
Thu. Feb. 19
@ Eastern Washington
(L) 67 -88
Sat. Feb. 14
vs. Idaho State
(W) 76 -75
Thu. Feb. 12
vs. Weber State
(L) 48 -50
Thu. Mar. 5
@ Sacramento State
Sat. Mar. 7
@ Portland State