Sophomore Guard Marquelle Funk
SUU Strategic Communications

T-Birds Host Top Teams in the Big Sky

January 15, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

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The top three teams in the Big Sky will meet in Cedar City this week as third place Southern Utah (9-6, 3-2 BSC)  is set to host conference leaders Montana State (11-4, 5-1) and the University of Montana (11-4, 5-1) in back-to-back home games. The Bobcats bring a five-game BSC winning streak to the Centrum Arena this Thursday at 7 p.m. SUU will then have the weekend to prepare for a Monday night matchup with the Grizzlies again at 7. The Thunderbirds took a 74-61 win at Weber State in their last outing and are 4-2 at home this year after splitting their first conference homestand earlier this season. Coverage of this week’s games can be found on

Montana State picked up home wins over North Dakota and Northern Colorado last week to extend its Big Sky winning streak to five games and move atop the conference standings with a record of 5-1. The Bobcats have three players with scoring averages in double-figures led by senior forward Rachel Semansky at 14.4 ppg. Head Coach Tricia Binford is in her eighth season at MSU where she has compiled a career record of 112-109. MSU leads the series with SUU, 10-2 and took a 76-62 win in its last visit to Cedar City during the 2010-11 season.

The University of Montana also holds a conference mark of 5-1 after taking wins over North Dakota and Northern Colorado in its last two outings. Seniors Kenzie De Boer and Katie Baker lead the Grizzlies offensive with averages of 13.7 and 12.6 ppg. Head coach Robin Selvig is in his 35th season at Montana where he has established a career record of 785-251. Those marks make him the longest tenured coach at the same school and  sixth all-time in NCAA wins. Southern Utah will be looking for its first win against the Grizzlies in the two teams first meeting since the 1994-95 season.

Southern Utah picked up a 74-61 win in its first Big Sky Conference meeting with rival Weber State on Saturday. The Thunderbirds got 14 points each from Hailey Mandelko, Kimie Hawkins and Carli Moreland to improve their conference record to 3-2 and 9-6 overall while dropping the Wildcats to marks of 0-5 and 0-14 on the year while extending their NCAA-leading losing streak to 34 games. Hawkins had an efficient night on offense, going 5-7 from the field for the T-Birds as well as 4-4 from the foul line. Mandelko did her damage from the outside where she was 2-4 from three-point territory. Desiree Ramos would be the only Wildcat to score in double-figures, finishing the game with 11 points.

Southern Utah used a furious second half effort to erase a 23-point halftime deficit at Idaho State Thursday night, but the Thunderbirds efforts at a comeback came up just short as the Bengals snapped a four-game losing skid by holding on to win by a final score of 80-71. Southern Utah forward Carli Moreland turned in her best outing of the season so far in the loss, recording 19 points and 5 rebounds. Sofia Hepworth added another 10 points for the T-Birds on 5-7 shooting. The Bengals got a big performance from Maracigan who would lead all players with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team has received its first commitments of the 2013 recruiting class as Madison Wright of Spokane, Wash. and Mary Klapperich of Palmer, Alaska have signed NLIs and will join the Thunderbirds next fall.

The T-Bird offense has been putting up big numbers this season, twice eclipsing 90 points and averaging over 70 points a game. That number puts SUU in the top 50 among the nation’s scoring offenses. Southern Utah also ranks in the top 75 in the NCAA with a team three-point field goal percentage mark of 33.0%.

Sophomore guard Hailey Mandelko has hit 26 of her first 68 attempts from three to start the season, including a 6-10 performance in Southern Utah’s 93-82 win at San Jose State. Mandelko’s three-point shooting percentage currently sits at 38.2 percent, which ranks her among the top 60 shooters in the country. Mandeko’s hot shooting helped her to be named the Big Sky Player of the Week on Dec. 10.

The Thunderbirds have proved themselves to be a strong rebounding team and are currently averaging 44.7 boards a game, the best mark in the Big Sky. SUU also holds a +7.1 rebounding margin advantage over its opponents, which is the 33rd best mark in the nation. Senior forward Kimie Hawkins has been the top T-Bird on the glass so far this season with an average of 6.9 rpg.

The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team has been picked to finish eleventh in its first season as a member of the Big Sky Conference. Defending champion Idaho State received eight first-place votes to come out on top of the coaches’ poll followed by Northern Colorado and the University of Montana. Northern Arizona and Weber State were slotted ninth and tenth respectively, just ahead of SUU.

• After starting the year 2-4, Southern Utah has won seven of its last nine games and ran off five-straight wins in the month of December.
• The Thunderbirds have nine different players playing over 12 minutes a game and no one averaging more than 26 minutes (Marquelle Funk, 25.9 mpg).
• In its nine wins this season SUU is averaging 77.4 points a game and shooting over 42 percent. It their six losses the T-Birds are scoring just over 61 points a game and shooting 37.5 percent from the field.