Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah Oct. 29 – Southern Utah wrapped up the preseason with a 71-59 win over Dixie State Wednesday night to finish with a record of 2-0 in exhibition play. The Thunderbirds struggled to score the ball early and trailed 33-32 at the end of the first half, but a strong defensive effort down the stretch coupled with improved shooting helped SUU pull away for the victory.
Desiree Jackson opened the scoring for Southern Utah by knifing through the lane for a floater that just beat the shot clock to bring the score to an early tie at 2-2. The two teams went back-and-forth to start, eventually finding the score even once again at 8-8 minutes in. From there the Thunderbirds went on to build a four point advantage, mostly by working the offensive glass as eight of their first twelve points came on second chance scoring opportunities.
The Red Storm rallied by running off nine straight, including four from Johnna Brown, to go up 17-12. SUU answered with a 6-0 run of its own and held an 18-17 lead halfway through the opening period.
Dixie came back to hold a slight edge in the closing moments of the half, but Sofia Hepworth got behind the defense for a backdoor lay-up just before the horn to pull the score within one as the Thunderbirds trailed 33-32 at the break.
Carli Moreland led SUU with eight points at the break to go along with four offensive rebounds. Johnna Brown put up 12 points for DSC in the early going.
Dixie State shot over forty-six percent from the floor in the first half while Southern Utah checked in at just under twenty-four percent. The Thunderbirds kept pace by going 14-16 from the foul line and turning 13 Red Storm turnovers into 10 points.
“It’s really important to be able to get to the foul line when the shots aren’t falling,” explained SUU head coach JR Payne. “It was great that the free throw attempts were balanced, that shows that everyone was being aggressive on offense.”
Tayler Anderson scored the opening basket of the second half as SUU retook the lead at 34-33. Her score sparked a 15-4 run that saw the T-Birds go up 48-37. Jackson and Andrea Jones then connected from the outside and Moreland and Kimie Hawkins hit back-to-back shots in the post to help Southern Utah push its advantage to 62-46 with just over five minutes left to play.
The Red Storm battled back in the final moments, eventually cutting the lead to 67-59 on a three-pointer from Kaylah Miller, but Southern Utah scored the final four points of the game to come away with the 71-59 victory.
Dixie State’s field goal percentage came down to thirty-nine percent after the Thunderbird defense held the visitors to just 8-23 shooting in the second half. The Thunderbirds shot almost fifty percent from the floor after the break to up its mark to thirty-four percent for the game.
“Early on it felt like we were playing one-on-five. We were taking quick, bad shots that weren’t within the framework of the offense,” commented Payne. “We want to be a disciplined hard-working team and we didn’t show that in the start.”
SUU posted a 51-37 rebounding advantage, including a 20-8 margin on the offensive end, and outscored the Red Storm 39-26 to close out the game. Kimie Hawkins led the Thunderbirds with 17 points and 15 rebounds while Brown finished with 18 and 10 for Dixie State.
“I wish we could have played more of our bench tonight, but when the game is close you go with who you know, the players that have experience,” stated Payne. “We were hoping to get some other players more reps, and some had to play more minutes then we wanted them to.”
Southern Utah will now have a little over a week to prepare for the regular season before hosting Southern Oregon on Nov. 10. The Thunderbirds and Raiders will meet in the Centrum Arena next Saturday at 7 p.m.
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Sat. Feb. 21
(L) 49 -76
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Sat. Feb. 14
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(W) 76 -75
Thu. Feb. 12
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Sat. Feb. 7
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Sat. Feb. 28
vs. North Dakota
Thu. Mar. 5
@ Sacramento State
Sat. Mar. 7
@ Portland State