Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Jan. 17 – Southern Utah came back from a 13-point halftime deficit against visiting Montana State to trail by just three in the final minutes, but the Big Sky leading Bobcats held on to come away with a 65-59 win Thursday night. MSU improves its conference record to 6-1 and its overall mark to 12-4 while dropping SUU to 9-7 and 3-3 in BSC play.
“You come up with a game plan, you study so much film and so much time and prep and you talk about it and work on it and then just flat go out and not do it,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “We can’t be the tale of two halves every night. We have to be more consistent.”
The first two scores of the game came on put back baskets by the Bobcats as they took a quick four-point lead before Kimie Hawkins completed a three-point play to bring the Thunderbirds back within three at 9-6. An outside shot from Jackie Elliot and a running floater by Latisha Adams would help the visitors run off nine straight points to push their advantage to 18-6 halfway through the period.
SUU then went to work narrowing the deficit, and a 6-0 run near the five-minute mark brought the margin to just eight with the score at 24-16. MSU outscored the T-Birds by a count of 11-4 over the final three minutes of the half however to take a 35-22 lead into the break.
Hawkins had eight of the Southern Utah’s 22 first half points while Jones chipped in another seven. Rachel Semansky scored eight points to lead the way for Montana State, which posted a 31-19 rebounding advantage to start the game.
The two sides traded scores early in the second half and the Bobcat’s lead remained 13 after back-to-back layups from Semansky and Carli Moreland set the tally at 43-30 with 16 minutes to play.
The Thunderbirds started to build momentum as Moreland put in another score and Hawkins sank a jumper to bring SUU back within ten at 43-34. Mandelko then knocked down a three and the T-Birds trailed by just seven with 11:27 remaining.
Adams scored four straight to help the Bobcats push their lead back to 11, but 10 Thunderbird free throws in the space of four minutes had SUU down by just four at 54-50 with six minutes to play.
The score stayed close down the stretch after Desiree Jackson’s successful trip to the foul line made it a three-point game with two minutes left. The Bobcats held off the charge in the closing moments however to come away with the 65-59 win.
Southern Utah shot just 27.4 percent in the game, but converted on 23-of-32 attempts at the foul line. Hawkins finished as the Thunderbirds leading scorer with 12 points while Jackson and Mandelko each had 10. Montana State recorded a field goal mark of 36.8 percent and picked up 22 points on free throws. Adams led the Bobcats with 16 points and Semansky turned in a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Thunderbirds committed just 15 turnovers in the game and finished behind on the glass 47-45 after trailing the rebound count by 12 at the half. SUU also scored 20 points off of 19 MSU turnovers, but gave up 34 points in the paint.
“I don’t think we are ever a team that gives up, we just struggle sometimes with coming out with that type of intensity,” commented Payne. “Everybody battled, the bench was great, the kids that didn’t get to play were great, we just have to bottle that second half and come out like that.”
Southern Utah will now have the weekend to prepare for a Monday night matchup with the University of Montana. The Grizzlies will try to remain at the top of the Big Sky standings when they visit the Centrum Arena at 7 p.m.
Thu. Mar. 6
vs. North Dakota
(W) 73 -53
Sat. Mar. 1
vs. Montana State
(W) 70 -60
Wed. Feb. 26
(W) 69 -49
Sat. Feb. 22
@ Portland State
(W) 86 -79
Thu. Feb. 20
@ Eastern Washington
(L) 54 -59
Sat. Feb. 15
@ Weber State
(W) 80 -64
Sat. Mar. 8
vs. Northern Colorado
Thu. Mar. 13
Big Sky Conference Tournament