2015 Big Sky Champions
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Southern Utah continues its Summit League home stand this week, playing host to the University of South Dakota and UMKC. The Thunderbirds are coming off their first Summit League victory of the season after getting a career high 22 points from sophomore guard DJ Norman on Saturday to capture an 80-68 win over IPFW. Next up for the T-Birds is a rematch with South Dakota. The Coyotes defeated SUU by a score of 81-69 earlier this season behind 28 points from Amber Hegge. Southern Utah will face USD this Saturday at 5 p.m. The game will be followed immediately by the men’s game at 7:30. The Thunderbirds will then face UMKC next Monday at 7 p.m. in the Centrum Arena.
Southern Utah University women’s basketball fans can follow all home and select away games via LiveStats at www.SUUTBIRDS.com. All home games will be video streamed on www.SUUTBIRDS.com and broadcast on the radio at 91.1 FM and online at www.suu.edu/hss/comm/ksuu/webcast.html.

South Dakota is in its first season as a member of the Summit League where it has compiled a conference record of 4-5. The Coyotes feature one of the league’s top offenses led by senior forward Amber Hegge who averages 18.3 points per contest. Hegge scored 28 against the Thunderbirds earlier this season to help the Coyotoes take a 81-69 victory over SUU. USD also has one of top defenses in the conference, holding opponents to just 35.1% shooting from the field. Jodie Boss is averaging 4.0 blocks for the Coyotes who lead the league with 7.1 rejections a game. Head coach Ryun Williams is in his fourth season at his alma mater where he holds a record of 65-45 to go with his career record of 300-188.

UMKC dropped its first two conference games this season but has since won five of its last seven to move into a tie for the third place spot in the Summit League standings. The ‘Roos had five players score in the double figures in their first meeting with SUU this season to take a 81-69 win over the Thunderbirds. UMKC features one of the league’s top scoring offenses, averaging over 73 points per game, led by Dayon Hall-Jones’ whose 17.7 points a contest currently ranks third among the Summit League’s top scorers. Head coach Candace Whitaker has led her team to record of 69-88 over the past six years and helped UMKC earn its first NCAA postseason appearance as the ‘Roos took part in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational following the 2009-10 season. UMKC took both meetings between the schools last season, claiming a 73-66 decision at home on January 8, and then later knocking off the T-Birds by a score of 71-68 in Cedar City and currently hold a 17-14 advantage in the all-time series.

Andrea Jones scored a career-high 22 points against Oakland for Southern Utah on Monday night, but the Grizzlies were able to come back in the game’s final minutes to take a 64-60 win over the Thunderbirds. A 20-5 Oakland run down the stretch saw the Grizzlies level the score at 49, then go up seven at 57-50.  Southern Utah scored 10 points in the final minute-and-a-half to draw within four, but Oakland was able to convert from the free throw line to hold on for the 64-60 victory. Jones’ 22 led all scorers while Moreland added another 18 along with 16 rebounds for SUU. Bethany Watterworth had 20 points for the Grizzlies, including 16 in the second half, and Amy Carlton came off the bench for a dozen.

Southern Utah snapped an eight-game losing-streak and earned its first Summit League victory of the year with an 80-68 win over visiting IPFW on Saturday night. The Thunderbirds leading scorer Hailey Mandelko left the game in the first half after a colliding with a defender, but her fellow starting guard DJ Norman picked up the slack with a career high 22 points to help SUU come away with the win. In addition to Norman’s career high 22, SUU also got 14 from Moreland while Kimie Hawkins and Jones each chipped in 10. Freshman guard Haley Siebert led IPFW with 21 after going 4-5 from behind the arc.

Sophomore forward Carli Moreland collected her sixth double-double of the season with 22 points and 12 rebounds at IUPUI on Monday, but it wouldn’t be enough as Southern Utah took a 56-49 loss to the Jaguars. The Thunderbirds grabbed an early 7-2 lead in the game after Hailey Mandelko added a three to a pair of lay-ups by Moreland and Tayler Anderson. SUU held the advantage throughout the majority of the first half, but the Jaguars stayed right behind, never letting the margin get larger than five points. Following a pair of free throws by Moreland, IUPUI silenced the Thunderbird offense for a five-point run that helped the Jaguars take the lead at 44-40. IUPUI would then continue applying the pressure, outscoring SUU by a 10-3 count over the next six-minutes to extend its advantage to 11. Southern Utah made a final push in the final minutes, cutting the deficit to as little as five on a Mandelko three, but the Jaguars were able to hold on for the 56-49 victory.


Southern Utah mounted a strong rally in the second half of its road contest at Western Illinois Saturday, but the Thunderbirds would come up just short as the Leathernecks were able to hold on for the 82-70 victory. Freshman guard Hailey Mandelko scored 20 points for SUU, helping her team come within as little as three points late in the game, but four Leathernecks would finish in the double-figures to help WIU take the 12-point win. Mandelko had a big night for SUU as the freshman guard hit three shots from behind the arc on the way to her fourth 20-point game of the season. Carli Moreland also had an outstanding performance, turning in her fifth double-double this year with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Western Illinois would have four players finish in the double-figures as the Leathernecks got 14 from Salvatori to go along with 16 from Kelly, while Kontautaite put up 19 and Webb finished with 20.

Southern Utah got 21 points from freshman point guard Hailey Mandelko against Summit League leading South Dakota State Monday night, but fell by a final count of 66-50 after allowing the Jacks to score 30 points off of turnovers. The Jackrabbits started the game with 11 straight points while the Thunderbirds turned the ball over in each of their first six possessions. SDSU was able to turn those miscues into easy baskets to go up 11-0 after just four minutes of play. Jennie Sunnarborg led SDSU with 22 points while Jill Young went 5-10 from the three point line and added a pair of free throws to finish with 17 in the contest. Andrea Jones came off the bench to score 11 for SUU.


Southern Utah came out on the losing end of a highly contested matchup with the University of South Dakota on Saturday. The Coyotes held the lead throughout the game, but the Thunderbirds were right behind, matching them run-for-run throughout the majority of the contest. SUU trailed by as little as three points halfway through the second half, but USD would outscore the T-Birds by eight points in the final minutes for an 81-69 victory. Hailey Mandelko knocked down a pair of threes for SUU in the game on her way to a team-high 13 points. Kimie Hawkins scored 12 points to go with her seven boards while Carli Moreland finished with 11 and nine rebounds. DJ Norman turned in a career-high 11 points and Andrea Jones and Brenna Gates both came off the bench for 10.  South Dakota got a big night from senior forward Amber Hegge who scored 28 points to go along with her nine rebounds. Center Jodie Boss recorded a double double for the Coyotes, finishing with 14 points and 10 boards while also blocking seven shots.


Southern Utah faced another tough road test on Thursday, this time against a conference opponent, as the Thunderbirds traveled to Kansas City to face the UMKC Kangaroos. SUU battled back from an early deficit to pull within a single basket of UMKC in the closing minutes of the first half, but the ‘Roos scored the final seven points of the period and then carried that momentum into the second half as they ultimately pulled away for the 81-61 victory. Kimie Hawkins recorded her second career double double for SUU in the loss, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Carli Moreland led the Thunderbirds in scoring with 15 points, while Mandelko chipped in 14, 12 of which came from behind the three-point line. The ‘Roos would get 16 from both Kim Nezianya and Ashli Hill while Dayson Hall-Jones turned in 15 for UMKC.


Oral Roberts turned in its best offensive performance of the season on its way to a 109-59 victory over Southern Utah. The Golden Eagles shot over 50% from the field and made 10 three-pointers to pull away from visiting SUU. Two-time All-Summit League Player of the Year Kevi Luper led all scorers with 31 to help her team to its highest offensive output of the season. ORU would also get 13 from Bigham while Jordan Pyle and Amber Carver each finished with 10. The Thunderbirds were led by Carli Moreland who set a new career mark with eight free throws on her way to 14 total points. The sophomore forward also recorded her third double double of the season as she pulled down 10 rebounds. Hailey Mandelko finished with 13 in the game, nine of which came on threes, while Torey Hill came off the bench for a career high eight points on 4-6 shooting.

Southern Utah had one of its most productive nights of offense so far this season on Wednesday, outscoring visiting in-state rival Utah Valley by a final count of 80-65. Freshman point guard Hailey Mandelko led all scorers with 23 points, finishing the game 4-8 from behind the arc and 7-7 at the free throw line, setting career marks in all three categories. Three other players would also score in the double-figures for SUU as Kimie Hawkins had 12, DJ Norman matched a career high with 10 and Carli Moreland set a new personal best with 17. Junior forward Tayler Anderson also helped to fill the box score with eight points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Junior center Erica Newbold paced Utah Valley with 14 points, six of which came from the free throw line.

Southern Utah captured its first win of the young season as freshman point guard Hailey Mandelko sank a jumper from the free throw line in the closing seconds of the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic finale to lift the Thunderbirds to a 58-57 victory over tournament host New Mexico State. Mandelko finished the game with 14 total points, and was one of four T-Birds to score in the double figures. Tayler Anderson and Brenna Gates both posted new career high in points for SUU, scoring 12 and 13 respectively, while junior forward Carli Moreland recorded her second consecutive double double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Aggies were led by Wampler who carried the load for NMSU with 20 points in the contest.

Basia Klein of San Clemente, Calif. signed an NLI to play at Southern Utah and will join the Thunderbirds next fall. The 5’11” forward has had a remarkable high school career so far, averaging 15 points, eight rebounds, and five steals during her time at Santa Margarita. Her team recognized her efforts by giving her their Most Improved Player Award as a Varsity Starter in 2010. She has also been listed as a prospect on the ESPN Hoopgurlz listings for the past three seasons.


Southern Utah University has announced the hiring of assistant coaches Nicole Ryan and Caitlyn Sears who will join T-Birds women’s basketball team. Nicole Ryan comes to Southern Utah from American University where after a successful playing career, spent a year as a student assistant. Ryan was a standout guard at American where she helped lead the Eagles to three consecutive NIT appearances and one regular season championship in the Patriot League.
Caitlyn Sears continues to be an important contributor to T-Bird basketball as she makes the transition from player to coach. This past season Sears concluded one of the most productive playing careers in the history of SUU basketball, becoming Southern Utah’s fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,216 total points.


Southern Utah University’s athletic program will have a new home, beginning in the fall of 2012, as the Thunderbirds have accepted an invitation to join the Big Sky Conference. SUU received and accepted a formal invitation to join the conference on Friday. The University of North Dakota also accepted an invitation from the Big Sky on Friday and will be announcing its intent to join the conference today. Southern Utah will reap many benefits as members of the Big Sky, including reduced travel costs, ease of scheduling and, at least in the case of football, the opportunity to play for an automatic post-season bid. Last, but certainly not least, SUU’s programs will be able to build on natural regional rivalries within the conference rather than with institutions with no geographic ties to Utah. The Thunderbirds currently compete in The Summit League in the majority of their sports, with the closest conference opponent located in Tulsa, Okla. With the exception of North Dakota, every school in the Big Sky will be closer geographically to SUU than the nearest Summit League institution. That translates into savings in the travel budgets of all sports as well as regional name recognition for the conference rivals.

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Thu. Feb. 4
@ Idaho
(L) 48 -93
Sat. Jan. 30
vs. Weber State
(L) 51 -69
Thu. Jan. 28
vs. Idaho State
(L) 67 -71
Sat. Jan. 23
@ North Dakota
(L) 56 -68
Thu. Jan. 21
@ Northern Colorado
(L) 44 -64
Sat. Jan. 16
vs. Idaho
(L) 51 -62
Sat. Feb. 6
@ Eastern Washington
(L) 53 -64
Thu. Feb. 11
vs. Montana
7:00 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 13
vs. Montana State
7:00 p.m.
Thu. Feb. 18
@ Weber State
7:00 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 20
@ Idaho State
2:00 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 27
vs. Northern Arizona
7:00 p.m.
Wed. Mar. 2
vs. Sacramento State
7:00 p.m.
Fri. Mar. 4
vs. Portland State
7:00 p.m.
Mon. Mar. 7
@ Big Sky Tournament
Big Sky Tournament