After a series of cancellations due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program, the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team hit the court for the first time this season with a 74-46 win against William Jessup University.
“We are so excited to play,” head coach Tracy Sanders said. “It feels like so long and our girls have been here since the start of school. We have been practicing for so long and not having to get excited for a game has been an emotional year.”
It was a relatively slow first half for the Thunderbirds, who only led their NAIA opponent by three points at the end the first quarter.
“We have watched their games pretty closely,” Sanders explained. “I do think they are a solid team and we knew, they’re not going to just roll over. Defensively, we weren’t great to start the game, and so we stuck to talking about the fundamentals on playing defense and playing the way we play.”
Junior Cherita Daugherty started the game quickly with seven points in the early going, including a 3-pointer. At the conclusion of the half, SUU managed 44.8% from the field and held their opponents to just 28.6% to take a 38-26 lead into the half.
Daugherty, one of nine new faces added to the program since last season, finished her at-home debut with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I love the coaches and the team,” Daugherty said. “I wish I would have come to SUU first, I just love it.”
Liz Graves, a redshirt senior who transferred from Weber State, joined her sister Madelyn Eaton this season and also made her home debut for the Thunderbirds.
Graves and Eaton helped the team spark a 20 point run in the third quarter with her eight points during that time.
“I feel like I should have been [at SUU] my whole college career,” Graves said. “It is the perfect fit for me here, I love the coaches and my teammates, and the system is great.”
Against the Warriors, Graves led the team with 18 points overall on 8-11 FG in just 19 minutes.
Freshman Samantha Johnston, who is Sanders’ daughter, made her SUU debut and totaled six points for the Thunderbirds.
Sanders was excited to see her score her first points as a T-Bird, saying, “One of the things I love about her is her energy. She’s excited and she loves the game, so it’s fun to have her here.”
SUU moves to 1-1 on the season with the win.
The Thunderbirds will continue their season against Grand Canyon University on December 12 at 12 p.m. in the America First Event Center.
Story by: Lainie Hallows
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics Strategic Communication