Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
OREM, Utah Dec. 6 – Southern Utah held on to defeat Utah Valley for a sixth-consecutive time by a final score of 71-66 Thursday night. The Thunderbirds built a big lead early before the Wolverines battled back to trail by just two at the half. The score remained close during the second period before SUU eventually pulled away and held on for the win, improving to 3-4 on the season. With the loss UVU drops to 2-8 on the year.
“There were a couple of things that really made me happy tonight,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “First we came out with our hair on fire and played really aggressive. Then after they made their run we didn’t hang our heads, we battled back and played a full game.”
The Thunderbirds’ first big play of the game came on the defensive end as Sofia Hepworth came from the weak side to reject an inside shot by the Wolverines Sammie Jensen. On offense SUU started the game with six-straight lay-ups to hold a 12-7 edge just five minutes in.
The T-Birds then pushed the lead to 19-9 with a 7-2 run. Andrea Jones got things going with a three-pointer from the wing, with Hawkins and Moreland adding two more scores from the inside to put SUU up by ten.
Hailey Mandelko would then heat up from the outside, hitting a pair of shots from the outside as Southern Utah pushed the margin to 29-13 halfway through the opening period.
Utah Valley rallied from there however, outscoring SUU 18-2 in the final minutes of the half to trail by just two with the score at 33-31 at the break. Senior forward Kaycee Mansfield tallied eight points during that stretch for the Wolverines to bring her overall total to 14.
The T-Birds shot 40 percent from the floor in the opening period, but were held scoreless over the final five minutes as the Wolverines got back in the game with an 8-0 run. UVU shot only 32 percent in the early going, but was 6-8 from the free throw line and pulled down nine offensive rebounds for 11-second chance points.
Utah Valley kept the run going in the second half, coming back to take its first lead of the night at 35-34. The two teams then traded baskets for the next several minutes with neither side being able to gain an advantage until Marquelle Funk hit a straightaway three approaching the nine-minute mark to go up 48-44. She then added another three-point play with a basket and a foul to push the score to 52-46 with seven minutes left to play.
The Wolverines kept it close down the stretch, closing within two on an outside shot from Taylor Huber with 2:01 left on the clock. Andrea Jones then earned a trip to the foul line to put the Thunderbirds back up by four at 64-60.
Jensen made another lay-up to bring it back to a single possession game with just over a minute to play, but Desiree Jackson answered with a jumper and Hawkins dropped in two free throws to help Southern Utah pull away for good and eventually come away with the 71-66 victory.
Hawkins recorded her first double-double of the season for the T-Birds, finishing the game with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Mandelko added 11 more for SUU, including a couple of shots from behind the arc. Jensen posted totals of 19 and 15 for UVU while going 10-10 from the free throw line.
The Thunderbirds shot 38.3 percent from the field while holding the Wolverines to a mark of 32.8 percent. Utah Valley held a narrow edge on the glass, outrebounding Southern Utah 45-41, but the T-Birds made up the difference by turning 11 steals into 20 points off of UVU turnovers.
“I felt like we executed on both ends of the floor and our defense did what they were asked,” commented Payne. “We also made some big free throws and had one of our lowest turnover outputs of the year.”
SUU will look to even its record as it continues its road trip this weekend with a visit to San Jose State. The Thunderbirds and Spartans will tip things off on Saturday at 3 p.m. (MT)
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
Sat. Feb. 7
@ Northern Colorado
(L) 58 -87
Sat. Feb. 28
vs. North Dakota
Thu. Mar. 5
@ Sacramento State
Sat. Mar. 7
@ Portland State