Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Feb. 16 – The momentum went back-and-forth in Saturday’s matchup between Southern Utah (12-13, 6-9 BSC) and Eastern Washington (14-10, 10-5), as both teams were unable to hold on to the advantage in a game that saw four ties and four lead changes. The Thunderbirds overcame an early 10-point deficit to take the lead at halftime, then built a nine-point advantage of their own in the second half before eventually allowing the Eagles come back and pull away for a 78-70 win.
“We had 26 turnovers, you just can’t win like that,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne after the game.
Southern Utah came up empty on its first six shots from the floor before Tayler Anderson and Kimie Hawkins worked inside for back-to-back layups to get the offense going. Anderson later tied the score at 12-12 on a trip to the foul line, but SUU went cold again connecting on 2-14 over a seven-minute stretch as it fell behind by a count of 26-16 with 7:22 remaining in the opening period.
The T-Birds began to build some momentum down the stretch as Sofia Hepworth made two quick steals that resulted in a pair of fast break layups and Andrea Jones dropped in a three to help bring SUU back within two. Hepworth then added a pull-up jumper with just under two minutes remaining in the half to even up the score at 32-32. EWU retook the lead with a couple of free throws but Jones connected on her third three in the closing moments to put Southern Utah up 35-34 heading into the break.
Senior guard Lexie Nelson provided the offense for the Eagles early on, hitting 2-3 from the outside on her way to 11 first half points. Hawkins led SUU with 10 points in the first 20 minutes after going 8-10 at the foul line. The Thunderbirds doubled up Eastern Washington on the glass, 31-14 and hit six of their last eight shots to come back and take the lead with a 14-4 run.
Eastern Washington was able to retake the advantage early in the second half but Hepworth and Mandelko dropped in two-straight threes to put SUU back in front. Jones added another shot from the outside as the T-Birds stretched the lead to 52-43 on an 11-0 run.
The Eagles battled back by outscoring SUU 13-3 over the next four minutes to tie the game at 55-55 on a three-point basket by Aubrey Ashenfelter. The visitors then scored eight of the next ten points to pull ahead 63-57 with less than nine minutes left to play.
Freshman Lori Parkinson scored inside to bring the Thunderbirds back within three at the six-minute mark but the Eagles stretched the advantage back to 11 with an 8-2 run capped by a pair of free throws from Nelson. SUU fought until the end but Eastern Washington eventually came out on top, 78-70.
The T-Birds had a strong night on the glass, outrebounding their opponents 52-35. SUU shot just below 34 percent in the game while the Eagles were right at 40 percent. EWU also led in points in the paint, 36-20; points off turnovers, 22-12 and second chance points, 18-14.
Jones finished 4-6 from behind the arc for 20 points while Hawkins came up one rebound shy of a double-double with 13 points and nine boards. Nelson led all scorers with 22 points in the contest and Laura Hughes chipped in another 20 for the Eagles.
“We’re going to rest a little bit. They hadn’t had a game in a week and we played two days ago so we need to rest and get ready,” said Payne. “We have a single (game) this week. This week is our first one.”
Southern Utah takes to the road for the next two weeks, where it will face the top two teams in the Big Sky standings. The T-Birds start things off with their first matchup of the year against Northern Colorado next Saturday at 2:05 p.m. Coverage of the game is available at www.suutbirds.com.
Sat. Mar. 8
vs. Northern Colorado
(W) 63 -48
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
Thu. Mar. 13
Big Sky Conference Tournament