Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
GREELEY, Colo., Dec. 19 – Southern Utah senior Carli Moreland scored a career-high 25 points to lead the Thunderbirds (7-2, 1-0 BSC) to a 75-63 win in the team’s Big Sky opener at Northern Colorado (5-4, 0-1) on Thursday. The SUU center erupted for 17 points in thesecond half, including a stretch of nine straight in the closing minutes, to help her team pull away for the victory.
The two sides went back-and-forth early on until the home team ran off seven straight to take a 17-12 advantage approaching the halfway mark of the opening period. Bears center Stephanie Lee started the push with a straightaway three and capped the run with a score inside to put her team up by five.
SUU senior Marissa Robbins was fouled on a hard drive to the basket and knocked down both free throws to start a quick rally as the Thunderbirds full-court pressure led to a steal for Andrea Jones followed by a jumper from Lori Parkinson to make it a one-point game. She then added two more scores to put Southern Utah up 20-19.
The Thunderbirds built a five-point edge in the closing minutes of the half as Parkinson dropped in her 14th point of the game, but UNC came back with a pair of threes from Lindsey Mallon and Amy Kidner to retake the lead. Moreland and Robbins scored the final two baskets of the period however to put SUU in front by a count of 35-34 at the break.
The T-Birds shot 42.4 percent from the field in the first half while Northern Colorado checked in at 37.9 percent. SUU also held a 21-18 advantage on the glass, but the Bears hit 5-8 from behind the arc to keep things close.
An offensive rebound by Parkinson led to a lay-in for Robbins to open the scoring in the second half, but the home team came back with six straight points to go up by three. Southern Utah quickly rallied to tie things up as a floater from inside the key by Maylinn Smith evened the count at 42-42.
UNC again pulled ahead by three, but back-to-back scores from Jones and Moreland put SUU back in front. Jones then connected on the Thunderbirds only 3-pointer of the night and Moreland added a pair of free throws as the two seniors combined to make it a 9-0 run to give their team 53-47 lead.
The Bears answered back with a 10-4 rally to tie things up at 57-57 and Lee added a layup in transition to give her team a two point lead. Moreland then scored inside and earned a trip to the foul line to put SUU back up by one with just under four-and-a-half minutes remaining.
The SUU center would go on to score nine consecutive points for the Thunderbirds to extend the advantage to 67-59 with less than two minutes left on the clock. From there Southern Utah took advantage of its opportunities at the line to hold off the Bears for the win by a final score of 75-63.
Moreland went 7-13 from the field and set a career-mark by hitting 11-of-12 at the foul line. Parkinson recorded her third double-double of the year after pulling down 10 boards and matching her career-high with 18 points. Jones dropped in another 14 for the T-Birds to go along with two steals and seven assists.
SUU shot 41.9 from the floor and converted 22-of-26 free throw attempts. The Thunderbirds held a 39-35 rebounding edge and outscored their opponents inside by a total of 40-26. The Southern Utah defense held Northern Colorado to a 36.4 shooting mark and kept Lee, the Big Sky’s leading-scorer, in check with just 11 points. Senior guard Jamie Derrieux led the Bears with 19 while Molly Duehn chipped in a double-double with both 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Southern Utah will return to Colorado next week for a matchup with eleventh-ranked team in the nation. The T-Birds tip things off against the CU Buffaloes on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 2:00 p.m. Coverage of SUU basketball is available online at www.suutbirds.com.