Courtesy: Kyle Kester
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah Nov. 13 – After falling behind by as many as 23 points in its road-opener at Utah on Tuesday, SUU came back to cut the margin into the single digits in the game’s closing moments. The Thunderbird rally would come up just short however as the Utes were able to hold on for the 79-61 victory.
Southern Utah got on the scoreboard first after Desiree Jackson drew contact on a drive on the Thunderbirds second possession and hit both free throws to put SUU up 2-0. The Utes came back with a three-point play by Taryn Wicijowski. After a three from Hailey Mandelko and a pair of Desiree Jackson free throws the score was knotted up again at 7-7.
A quick five-point run then saw the Utes go up by three, but Marquelle Funk knocked down a shot from behind the arc to beat the shot clock and to bring the score even at 12-12.
From there Utah ran off 13 straight points, including five from Cheyenne Wilson, to go up 25-12. Carli Moreland then worked inside for two to stop the run and spark a 4-0 Southern Utah run that cut the deficit to 25-16.
The Utes came back with six straight on a three-point play and a shot from the outside, but SUU answered with a basket and a pair of free throws by Lori Parkinson to make the count 31-22.
The two sides traded scores in the closing minutes of the half until SUU took possession with four seconds left on the clock. Andrea Jones took the inbounds pass and quickly dribbled the length of the court before firing off a runner from the right side that beat the buzzer to make the score 35-28 heading into the break.
The Thunderbird offense showed a balanced attack early as nine different players scored for the T-Birds. Jackson, Parkinson, Sofia Hepworth and Brenna Gates each had four points to lead the way. Wicijowski led all scorers with 14 points at the half, followed by Iwalani Rodrigues who put up nine for the Utes.
The two teams were even on the boards at the intermission, each pulling down 18 rebounds in the opening half. Utah was more efficient shooting the ball, building its advantage by posting a 48.3 field goal percentage to Southern Utah’s mark of 34.5 percent.
Utah opened the second half with a 16-0 run capped by a three from Rodrigues, to push its lead to 51-28. Mandelko knocked down a three to stop the streak and Marissa Robbins added four straight as SUU narrowed the margin to 57-37. The Thunderbirds then continued to cut away at the deficit as they outscored the Utes 18-10 over a five-minute stretch to bring the tally to 61-46.
The Utes took back momentum Paige Crozon hit a pair free throws that pushed the lead to 70-52, but the Thunderbirds came back with another Mandelko three that started a 9-0 run to bring the score to bring SUU within nine at 70-61 with just over four minutes left to play.
Four-straight free throws and a lay-up by Rodrigues would then push the Utah lead to 76-61 with under two minutes left in the game. The Utes added on a few more free throws in the closing moments to eventually hold on for the 79-61 victory.
The Utes got big performances from Rodrigues who scored 20 points and Wicijowski who finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Robbins was the Thunderbirds top-scorer with 10 points, but 10 different players scored for SUU. Utah held a slight edge on the glass, outrebounding Southern Utah 46-40, and a significant advantage from the foul line where it connected on 25 attempts to the T-Birds 10 makes.
Utah improves to 2-0 to start the season while SUU is now 1-1. The Thunderbirds will get set to face tough competition again next week as they make a trip to the BTI Classic in Lubbock, Texas. SUU will open the week by playing tournament host Texas Tech on Friday, and then match up with New Orleans and Nicholls State on Saturday and Sunday.
Sat. Feb. 28
vs. North Dakota
(W) 73 -66
Thu. Feb. 26
vs. Northern Colorado
(L) 66 -88
Sat. Feb. 21
(L) 49 -76
Thu. Feb. 19
@ Eastern Washington
(L) 67 -88
Sat. Feb. 14
vs. Idaho State
(W) 76 -75
Thu. Feb. 12
vs. Weber State
(L) 48 -50
Thu. Mar. 5
@ Sacramento State
Sat. Mar. 7
@ Portland State