Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
CEDAR CITY, Utah, Feb. 7 – Southern Utah hit seven threes on its way to a 72-54 win over visiting Weber State on Thursday night. Sophomore guard Hailey Mandelko hit 4-8 from behind the arc and Sofia Hepworth added two more from the outside to help the Thunderbirds improve to 5-7 in Big Sky play and 11-11 overall. The Wildcats are still looking for their first win of the year after falling to 0-13 and 0-22 on the season.
“I went in the locker room and said ‘I think it’s officially a rivarly’,” said SUU head JR Payne. “It’s fun to play an in-state school and just a tough, scrappy, young, really-talented team. I think Weber State’s going to be very good in the future.”
Weber State put up the first seven points of the game to jump out to an early advantage, but SUU came back to score 11 of the next 13 to rally for a 11-9 lead five minutes in. Hepworth capped the run with a basket and a foul to give Southern Utah its first lead of the night.
The two sides went on to trade baskets throughout most of the first half as the lead changed hands three times and was tied up four more. The Thunderbirds created some space just past the halfway mark of the first period with a 5-0 run that put them up 25-18. Freshman Lori Parkinson scored all five points for SUU, dropping in a pair of lay-ups and a free throw.
Southern Utah maintained the advantage in the closing minutes of the half as Hepworth and Andrea Jones each knocked down late threes to make the score 36-29 heading into the break.
Both teams shot around 42 percent in the opening period but SUU was able to score 15 points off turnovers and doubled up the Wildcats in the paint, 20-10. Hepworth hit 4-6 shots from the field to lead Southern Utah with 10 first half points. Regina Okoye had nine for the visitors.
The Thunderbirds continued to build the margin in the second half as they held Weber State to just 25 total points in the period. SUU scored seven points at the line in the first eight minutes to stretch its lead into the double-figures and Hepworth added another three to up the advantage to 54-38 with just over eight minutes remaining.
Southern Utah kept up the pressure down the stretch as Mandelko connected from beyond the arc three more times in the last six minutes to extend the margin to a game-high 19 points with the score at 68-49 with 1:48 left to play. The T-Birds then cruised to the 72-54 final.
SUU shot just under 40 percent from the floor on the night, but was 7-16 (43.8%) from three-point territory. The Thunderbirds held WSU to 17-45 shooting which included an 18.2 percent mark from the outside. The T-Birds dominated the glass, outrebounding the Wildcats 46-33. They also outscored the Wildcats in the paint, 33-22; in points off turnovers, 31-19 and in bench points, 31-14.
Mandelko led all scorers in the contest with 18 points while Hepworth chipped in another 15 for SUU. Tayler Anderson grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out a game-high five assists. Okoye finished with 12 points for Weber State and Desiree Ramos added another 10.
“The intensity was good, really from start to finish,” commented Payne, “I thought there was really great and effort and intensity throughout the game.”
Southern Utah is back at home this Saturday for a matchup with Idaho State. The T-Birds and Bengals will tip things off in the Centrum Arena at 7:00 p.m. Coverage of the game is available at www.suutbirds.com.
Sat. Mar. 8
vs. Northern Colorado
(W) 63 -48
Thu. Mar. 6
vs. North Dakota
(W) 73 -53
Sat. Mar. 1
vs. Montana State
(W) 70 -60
Wed. Feb. 26
(W) 69 -49
Sat. Feb. 22
@ Portland State
(W) 86 -79
Thu. Feb. 20
@ Eastern Washington
(L) 54 -59
Thu. Mar. 13
Big Sky Conference Tournament