Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
BOULDER, Colo., March 22 – Southern Utah’s run in the WNIT came to an end in the second round after a 79-68 loss to Colorado Saturday night. The Thunderbirds battled back from several sizable deficits, but were unable to overtake the Buffaloes who claimed a win on their home court against SUU for the second time this season.
"They're everything a Pac-12 team should be. They're physical, athletics, big and strong and have some kids that can shoot the ball," stated SUU head coach JR Payne. "We never really back down, so I thought that we were kind of outmatched physically today, but from a toughness and grit standpoint, we definitely held our own."
Both teams took a few possessions to settle in before Brittany Wilson knocked down back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to put Colorado up by six. Marquelle Funk answered with a three of her own and trips to the foul for Desiree Jackson and Lori Parkinson had SUU down by two at 10-8.
The Buffaloes extended the margin back to six on four straight free throws for Jamee Swan, but three quick scores from Carli Moreland brought the game even at 16-16. Rachel Hargis put CU back in front before Moreland went inside for another basket and a foul to keep it a two-point difference at 21-19.
Colorado stretched its lead to nine with a 7-0 run late in the half, but Moreland dropped in the last field goal to set the margin at 28-21 heading into the break. The SUU center posted 11 points in the period on 4-8 shooting. The home team held the advantage by going 13-14 on free throws in the early going.
Arielle Roberson opened the second half with a 3-pointer for the Buffs, then hit another jumper to increase the lead to 36-21. The deficit grew to 19 on another basket from Roberson before a driving layup by Jackson and a deep three for Andrea Jones brought the difference to 45-32.
Marissa Robbins sank a pair of free throws halfway through the period to make it a 15-8 SUU run to bring the T-Birds back within ten at 51-41. The Colorado lead grew back to 18, but three straight layups for Jackson and two free throws by Hailey Mandelko had Southern Utah down by just nine at 66-57 with three minutes remaining.
The Buffaloes pushed the margin into double figures once again until a pair of threes from Maylinn Smith had the score back to a nine-point difference in the closing moments before Ashley Wilson dropped in a layup to set the closing count at 79-68.
Moreland led all scorers with 17 points in her final game as a T-Bird, going 7-7 at the foul line and blocking two shots. Jones recorded in 11 points in her SUU finale while Jackson turned in 16 points and seven rebounds.
“[Carli’s] had such an incredible impact on our team and our program. It’s really pretty neat for a player to be able to end her career in front of her family. It’s kind of fitting that we could end here in Colorado for her,” commented Payne. “She was great tonight. She’s been deathly ill for the last few days, so for her to be able to come out and play the way she did was very special.”
Southern Utah held a 27-16 advantage in points off of turnovers and scored 37 bench points. The Buffs claimed a 37-35 edge on the glass and went 27-38 at the foul line. Roberson led four CU players who finished with double digit scoring totals with 15 points.
SUU ends its most successful season in school history with an overall record of 23-10. The Thunderbirds improved the program’s best previous win total by five games and captured a victory in their first national postseason tournament appearance.