Hailey Mandelko went 12-15 from the foul line for 21 points in Southern Utah’s win at Northern Colorado
SUU Strategic Communications

SUU Looks to Capture Big Sky Tournament Bid

March 05, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

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With two games left in the regular season, Southern Utah (13-15, 7-11 BSC)  remains tied with Northern Arizona (8-20, 7-11) for seventh place in the conference standings and the final postseason spot in the Big Sky Tournament. The T-Birds will play their last pair of games at home this week, hosting Northern Colorado (18-10, 15-4) on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. then meeting up with North Dakota (11-17, 6-13) in their season finale on Saturday in another 7 o’clock matchup. SUU defeated UND for its first Big Sky win back in December and handed the Bears their first home loss of the year on Feb. 23. Coverage of this week’s games can be found on www.suutbirds.com.


Northern Colorado ranks second in the Big Sky with a conference mark of 15-4, just half a game behind Montana, and  could still capture the regular season crown. The Bears feature one of the toughest defenses in the BSC, allowing just 54.9 ppg on 36.6-percent shooting. Junior guard D’shara Strange ranks among the BSC leaders with 14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 2.4 spg. Head coach Jaime White is an SUU alum and in her seventh season at UNC where she holds a record of 99-110. The Thunderbirds took a 73-57 win over the Bears in Greeley less than two weeks ago, handing Northern Colorado its only home loss of the season.

Southern Utah and Northern Arizona are currently tied in the race for the final spot in the Big Sky Tournament with identical conference marks of 7-11. NAU holds the head-to-head tie-breaker after sweeping both games against the T-Birds this year. That means that SUU must get at least one victory in its final two games to have a chance at the postseason, and winning both still won’t guarantee them a tournament berth. The Lumberjacks also  finish up the season at home this week, hosting BSC leader Montana and sixth-place Montana State.

North Dakota currently sits just behind SUU at eighth place in the conference standings, but can do no better than match the T-Birds’ record, who would then hold the tie-breaker. Madi Buck leads the team with 10.8 ppg as well as 7.6 rpg. Head Coach Travis Brewster took over the reins this season after serving nine years as an assistant in the program. The all-time series between the two schools sits at 1-1 after Southern Utah took a 60-54 win at UND back in December in a game that marked the first Big Sky contest for both programs.


Southern Utah fell by a final score of 70-54 in its visit to Big Sky leading Montana. The Thunderbirds trailed by 10 at the break and the margin would grow to 21 before SUU cut it back down to 10 in the closing minutes, but UM eventually held on for the 16-point win. Carli Moreland led the T-Birds with 12 points on the night while Lori Parkinson and Desiree Jackson each added 11. Kenzie De Boer recorded 18 for the Grizzlies who got another 11 from Shanae Gilham. Southern Utah met up with Montana State a few days later, dropping a 56-48 decision to the Bobcats. SUU played from behind throughout most of the night, but had the margin down to three in the final minutes. MSU then held on for the win after closing the game with a 7-2 run. Kalli Durham put up 17 points for the home team while Andrea Jones led the Thunderbirds with 15.


The Thunderbirds have proven themselves to be a strong rebounding team and are currently averaging 44.3 boards a game, the second-best mark in the Big Sky. SUU also holds a +6.4 rebounding margin advantage over its opponents, which ranks among the best in the nation. Junior forward Carli Moreland leads the T-Birds on the glass with an average of 6.5 rpg.

Sophomore guard Hailey Mandelko is shooting 36.6 percent from behind the arc this season, a mark that puts her in the top ten shooters in the Big Sky and among the top 54 players in the nation. She hit six threes at SJSU early in the year and knocked down five against NAU.

The T-Bird offense has been putting up big numbers this season, twice eclipsing the 90-point mark and averaging just under 70 points a game. That number puts SUU in the top 35 among the nation’s scoring offenses and second in the Big Sky. Southern Utah also ranks 67th in the NCAA with an average of 14.1 assists.

Hailey Mandelko was named the Big Sky Player of the Week for the second time this season on Feb. 25. The sophomore put up 21 points to lead the Thunderbirds to an important road win at Northern Colorado. Mandelko also picked up recognition from College Sports Madness as the Big Sky’s top-performer.