T-Birds Complete Regular Season Sweep of Sacramento State
“I thought tonight we executed very well. It’s hard to execute when it’s constant trapping and people are in different positions but I though we executed beautifully tonight, both offensively and defensively,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “It was by far not a perfect game, but when you shoot 66 percent you are going to have a good chance to win the ball game. Especially when you win the rebounding battle too.”
Sacramento State scored the first eight points of the game before Mandelko earned a trip to the foul line to get the Southern Utah on the board. Hornet forward Sadie Clements hit her first two attempts from the outside during the run, but three straight lay-ins had the Thunderbirds back within two with the score at 10-8 less than five minutes in.
SUU tied things up at 12-12 with a layup from Andrea Jones, but the visitors retook the lead with five quick points, including a 3-pointer by Alle Moreno, to make the count 17-12. A basket from Hallie Gennett would stretch the margin to seven, but two quick scores from Parkinson had the T-Birds within two at 22-20.
The Hornets continued to connect from the outside and a pair of threes for Gigi Hascheff and Gennett pushed the advantage to 30-23. Southern Utah battled back with a 10-0 run to jump in front 34-32 however on a put-back basket from Parkinson with 5:35 left to play in the half.
The Thunderbirds took the momentum from there, capitalizing on big plays from Parkinson on defense, to score another 11 unanswered to go up 45-35. Senior guard Maylinn Smith capped the streak with an and-one on a driving basket and a foul.
Southern Utah would pick up seven points at the foul line in the final three minutes of the half to take a 53-40 lead into the break. The Thunderbirds shot nearly 68 percent from the field to start the game and racked up 38 points in the paint over the first 20 minutes.
An inside pass from Andrea Jones to Desiree Jackson gave SUU another layup to start the second half and the difference grew to 63-46 on a pair of free throws from Mandelko with 17:15 to play. Sacramento State narrowed the margin to nine with six straight points, but scores by Mandelko and Funk had the Thunderbirds up 69-56 with 12:23 remaining.
A three-point play for Hascheff brought the margin back to ten with six minutes to go and a score by Fantasia Hilliard had the visitors down 79-70 a minute later. The Thunderbirds added to their lead from their however to come out on top by a final count of 93-74.
The Thunderbirds shooting mark surpassed their previous season-high, which also came against the Hornets when the team shot 64.7 percent during a win in Sacramento earlier this year. The team finished 21-23 at the foul line and outrebounded its opponent, 42-28. The T-Birds nearly doubled the Hornets in points in the paint with the final count at 68-36.
Sac State finished four 3-pointers shy of its season average, going 9-31 from the outside for a mark of 29.0 percent. The nation’s second-highest scoring team also came 16 points short of its usual total. The Hornets shot 37.5 percent from the field and recorded 22 second chance points.
“We knew that we couldn’t run with them so we knew that it would be in our favor to slow the game down,” commented Payne. “The defensive rebounding was really important as well, to limit their looks at the basket and opportunities.”
Parkinson went 10-14 from the field and 2-2 at foul line to set a new single-game scoring mark while collecting 11 rebounds for her fifth double-double of the season. The Thunderbirds improve to 9-0 on the year when at least one player turns in double-digit totals in both scoring and rebounding. Mandelko has scored at least 22 points in each of the past three games, and has five 20-point performances on the season.
“A lot of people think that Hailey is just a shooter, if you look at her numbers, but she’s not. Tonight she got to the rim, she penetrated and dished, she has really expanded her game,” explained Payne. “The last few games she has really been on a tear and a lot of fun to watch.”
Moreno led Sacramento State with 18 points while Shanti Smith and Gennett each added another 13 for the visitors.
Southern Utah is back at home this Monday night for a seven o’clock meeting with Northern Arizona. Coverage of Thunderbird basketball is available online at www.suutbirds.com.