Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah Dec. 17 – After getting off to a slow start Southern Utah got things going in the second half to take a 79-58 win over visiting Houston Baptist (2-10) on Monday. The Thunderbirds trailed by three at halftime but outscored the Huskies 53-29 down the stretch to pick up their third straight win and improve to 5-4 on the year.
“We looked like we hadn’t played in nine days,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “But eventually we played the way we are capable of playing. When you show that you have type of basketball in you, you should just play like that all of the time.”
Junior guard Sofia Hepworth put up the first two baskets of the game for the T-Birds, but Houston Baptist was able to take an early 9-6 lead behind seven quick points from Shanice Steenholdt.
The two sides continued to trade baskets as the visitors held onto a slight advantage through most of the opening period, eventually pushing the lead to five as Rachel Arthur connected on a three near the nine-minute mark. The Thunderbirds quickly bounced back with back-to-back baskets from Lori Parkinson and Marquelle Funk to pull back within one at 19-18.
Southern Utah came back to take the lead in the closing minutes as Ashleigh Munns hit a corner three to put SUU up 26-25, but the Huskies scored the last four points of the half to take a 29-26 edge into the locker room.
Both teams shot right around the 35 percent mark to start the game while picking up three points at the foul line. SUU posted a 24-19 rebounding advantage in the opening period and held HBU to just 2-11 shooting from the outside. Steenholdt finished the half with 15 points while Parkinson came off the bench to lead the T-Birds with six in the early going.
SUU came out of the break firing, starting the second half with a 21-7 run to open up an 11-point lead. Funk helped to get the streak going with a lay-up then capped it off with transition basket to make the count 47-36 with 13-minutes left to play. The sophomore guard also chipped in a deep three during the stretch to help the T-Birds pull in front.
Southern Utah heated up in the second half, hitting 5-of-11 shots from the outside. Sofia Hepworth dropped in the fifth three to push the margin to 25 with the score at 72-47. The Thunderbirds then cruised through the final four minutes before coming away with a 79-58 victory.
SUU shot almost 54 percent from the floor in the second period to up it field goal mark to 45.7 percent for the game. The T-Bird defense held HBU to just 8-of-33 on field goals attempts down the stretch and 29.4 percent shooting for the game. Southern Utah also posted a 51-39 rebounding advantage, which included 23 offensive boards.
13 different players scored in the game for Southern Utah, led by Funk with 14, Hepworth at 12 and Hawkins with 11. Steenholdt finished with 20 for the Huskies and also pulled down 10 rebounds.
“We made better decisions in the second half,” explained Payne. “Even if someone wasn’t scoring, they were looking to facilitate other people.”
Next up for the Thunderbirds is their opening game in the Big Sky Conference. SUU will be at North Dakota this Thursday at 5 p.m. (MT) Live stats and a video stream of the game will be available on suutbirds.com.
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