Senior Guard Maylinn Smith
SUU Strategic Communications

SUU Hosts Arizona Christian, Visits Northern Colorado

December 11, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication

Southern Utah (5-2) will host Arizona Christian (3-6) in one of its final non-conference games on Dec. 16, before returning to the road to visit Northern Colorado (4-3) on the 19th for its first Big Sky matchup of the year. The Firestorm make their first ever visit to SUU on Monday for a seven o’clock tipoff while the Bears and Thunderbirds meet again on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. after facing each other three times over the final three weeks this past season. The T-Birds are undefeated in Cedar City this year, where they are averaging a seven-point edge over visiting opponents and a +12 rebounding advantage. Sophomore Lori Parkinson has been especially dangerous at home with a stat line of 13.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg and a 58-percent shoooting mark.

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Arizona Christian picked up an 83-77 win over Johnson & Wales University in its last outing to improve to 3-6 in the NAIA ranks. Senior guard Prayer Branham leads the team with an average of 15.4 ppg and is a former member of the Sacramento State Hornets of the Big Sky Conference. Oddell Berry enters his first season as the coach of the Firestorm after a successful career at the high school level. Monday’s matchup will be the first meeting between the two schools, but the second time Arizona Christian has visited SUU this season as the Thunderbird men opened the year with a 85-78 win over ACU.

Northern Colorado is off to a 4-3 start, but its biggest hurdle so far has been losing two-time Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year D’Shara Strange to a knee injury. The senior guard led the Bears in both scoring and rebounding last season. Junior center Stephanie Lee has stepped in to lead UNC this season with an average of 21.0 ppg. The Bears are coached by former Thunderbird Jaime White who holds a career record of 107-116 over the past seven seasons in Greeley. SUU took down Northern Colorado in both of their regular season meetings last season, and was the only team to hand the Bears a loss on their home court. UNC came out on top in the third meeting however, claiming a 67-56 victory at the conference tournament. The all-time series is currently even at 2-2.

SUU sophomore Lori Parkinson has shot 54.2 percent from the floor through the first seven games of the year, a mark that ranks second in the Big Sky. Seniors Carli Moreland (46.8 percent) and Andrea Jones (45.1 percent) are also among the conferences’ top shooters.

Southern Utah is shooting 74.4 percent from the foul line as a team this season. That mark ranks fourth in the Big Sky and 43rd in the nation. Senior Andrea Jones is a perfect 15-15 from the line and the Thunderbirds are averaging 17.4 made free throws per game.

Southern Utah is picking up votes in the College Insider Women’s Mid-Major Top-25 poll. Montana and Sacramento State, also of the Big Sky Conference, are beginning to receive recognition as well. Gonzaga ranks first among the mid-major schools as well as 23rd in the NCAA in AP poll.

Junior guard Hailey Mandelko shot 36.4 percent from behind the arc last season, a mark that put her in the top 10 shooters in the Big Sky and among the top 60 players in the nation. She hit six threes at San Jose State last year and knocked down five against Northern Arizona.

SUU split a pair of tournament games in Brooklyn, N.Y. during its last outing. The Thunderbirds fell to Georgia Tech in the opening round of the LIU Turkey Classic but bounced back for a 57-44 win over the hosting Blackbirds. Senior Andrea Jones was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 12.0 ppg.

Southern Utah guard Hailey Mandelko was named among the student-athletes to receive Big Sky honorable mention recognition followoing the 2012-13 season. As a sophomore, she led SUU during the regular season by scoring 11.9 points a game. Mandelko also recorded 50 assists, 40 steals and 83 rebounds for the T-Birds while shooting over 78 percent at the foul line. Mandelko was twice named the Big Sky Player of the Week.

After being picked to finish last in the Big Sky preseason poll last season, Southern Utah came in sixth in this year’s conference coaches vote. Eastern Washington was selected atop the poll while receiving six first-place votes, followed by Montana (3) and Northern Colorado (2). Montana State and Idaho State came in just ahead of SUU while Portland State and North Dakota were also picked to the make it to the postseason tournament.