T-Birds Make First Trip to the WNIT
SUU TAKES ON CSU IN THE WNIT
The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team will continue the most successful run in program history with its first ever appearance in the 2014 Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Thunderbirds play at Colorado State, Thursday at 7:00 p.m. (MT)
SUU was selected to the field of 64 after earning a share of the Big Sky regular season title with a team that has already set a school record with 22 victories. The T-Birds took an 86-78 win over Sacramento State at the conference tournament before being eliminated by Montana in the semi-finals.
The first three rounds of the Women’s NIT are hosted at the campus site of one of the participating teams. For each game, the higher-seeded team will have the first option to host unless logistical circumstances preclude such an opportunity. The opening set of games will be played March 19-21, followed by subsequent rounds leading up to the championship on April 5.
Coverage of the tournament and a free live video stream of the game will be available online at www.suutbirds.com in addition to a radio broadcast on Power91.
ABOUT COLORADO STATE
The Rams captured the regular season title in the Mountain West Conference, but fell to Fresno State in the tournament championship game. CSU returns to the WNIT for the first time since 2004 and holds an overall record of 6-3 in three appearances at the event. Colorado State holds a balanced offense that features four players with double-digit scoring averages, led by Sam Martin at 11.7 ppg. The team also led the MWC defensively during the regular season, allowing just 60.7 ppg on 37.5 percent shooting. Head coach Ryun Williams formerly coached at South Dakota where he faced JR Payne twice when the two schools were members of the Summit League. The Coyotes took both meetings.
The Thunderbirds took their first and only win against Colorado State in the two teams’ last meeting back in 1994. The Rams claimed the previous three.
SUU SHARES BIG SKY TITLE
Southern Utah won its last five games to earn a share of the regular season championship with North Dakota. The Thunderbirds defeated UND by a score of 73-53 in their penultimate outing as Lori Parkinson and Hailey Mandelko combined to score 34 points and the defense held the opponent to just 21.4 percent shooting from the field.
SUU then closed out the regular season with a 63-48 victory over Northern Colorado on Saturday to secure their first Big Sky title. Mandelko added another 20 points in the win.
BIG SKY HONORS THREE T-BIRDS
Three Southern Utah women’s basketball players were recognized when the Big Sky announced its postseason awards.
Hailey Mandelko was selected to the all-conference team after ranking among the Big Sky leaders with an average of 15.8 points a game and making 2.4 3-pointers a contest while shooting 37.8 percent from the outside.
Lori Parkinson made the second team after leading Southern Utah on the glass with 7.8 rebounds a game as well as field goal percentage with a shooting mark of 52.4 percent during Big Sky play.
Andrea Jones finished out her four-year career at SUU by coming off the bench to rank fourth on the team by averaging 8.7 points on 42.7 percent shooting and led the Thunderbirds with 3.8 assists a contest against Big Sky opponents to take home a share of the sixth player of the year award.
MANDELKO ON TOURNAMENT TEAM
Hailey Mandelko was named to the Big Sky Conference all-tournament team. The junior guard averaged 27.0 ppg and shot 9-18 from 3-point range to help the T-Birds advance to the semi-final round. She set a new career-high and recorded the sixth-highest scoring total in SUU history with 34 points in the game against Montana.
Carli Moreland has cracked the SUU record books in two career categories as she ranks fifth all-time in rebounds (749) and fifth in blocked shots (98). She became just the tenth player in program history to score 1,000 career points in her final home game. Senior guard Andrea Jones will look to distance herself as Southern Utah’s best free throw shooter, holding the current career record of 84.6 percent. She is also climbing in assists (306) where she sits at fourth all-time.
Southern Utah equaled its single-season record set in 1988 and matched in 2004 by collecting its 18th win of the year against Montana, then surpassed the mark with a victory over MSU, and now holds a total of 22.
This week’s game will also represent the T-Birds’ first appearance in a national postseason Division I tournament.