Despite trailing by seven points with a little more than two minutes remaining, Southern Utah University women’s basketball outlasted Grand Canyon University on Saturday by a score of 84-83.
The Thunderbirds closed the game on an 8-0 run with all eight points coming from the free-throw line. There were seven ties and nine lead changes in the contest.
With 58 seconds remaining, freshman guard Daylani Ballena stole the inbound pass after two made free throws from Cherita Daugherty. Ballena found Darri Frandsen, who was fouled before she could finish a layup. Frandsen sank her free-throws, and SUU stopped the Antelopes on consecutive possessions to secure the win.
“I didn’t even look at the score,” Frandsen said with a laugh postgame. “I was pretty chill.”
Senior forward Liz Graves led all scorers with 24 points on 8-16 FG, and finished the game with a double-double after grabbing 11 rebounds. Fellow senior Frandsen finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. Junior guard Cherita Daugherty added 19 points (9-9 FT) and five boards.
Graves, Frandsen and Daugherty combined for 19 points (5-7 FG) in the fourth quarter.
Freshman forward Pyper Thornberry scored a career high 10 points and was +10 in 15 minutes.
“It was a fun game to be a part of,” Sanders said. “GCU is a really good team… I thought we did a great job at the end of playing defense and attacking, being aggressive and getting to the free throw line.”
The Thunderbirds missed their first four shots and made 6-16 FG (38%) during the first quarter. They were buoyed by their stellar free-throw percentage, making all 10 of their attempts in the first period.
At the end of the first quarter, SUU led 22-16. The teams exchanged the lead four times and tied three more in the first half.
SUU extended the lead to double digits with 6:41 remaining in the second quarter, but the Antelopes charged back with a 12-0 scoring run of their own.
Grand Canyon’s press and defensive intensity gave SUU some trouble in the second quarter, and the T-Birds had 13 turnovers at the break.
A 3-pointer right before the shot clock expired by Thornberry put SUU down just one, 45-44, at halftime.
GCU outscored the T-Birds 23-19 in the third, and the T-Birds trailed 68-63 heading into the final quarter.
The Antelopes held the lead for 25:29 of the game, including the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Ultimately, fouls would be the Antelopes undoing. They fouled SUU nine times in the fourth quarter and 29 times in the game. SUU shot 29-34 on free-throws and won despite turning the ball over 23 times.
Southern Utah also outrebounded Grand Canyon 42-28, with the T-Birds hauling in 17 offensive rebounds.
Tiarra Brown led the way offensively for GCU, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Ny’dajah Jackson, who fouled out with 1:36 remaining, scored 17 points and made 3-4 3PFG. Laura Piera (14 pts) and Taylor Caldwell (10) also finished in double figures for the Antelopes.
“Winning at home is always so much fun,” Sanders said. “We’ve been working hard since before school started, and, with the way this year has been, it’s fun to see them come together… We’re still young, and we’re still figuring things out, but I think today you got a taste of what this team can do.”
The Thunderbirds (2-1) handed GCU (4-1) their first loss of the season after losing by four points in Phoenix to the Antelopes last season. SUU will have a similar chance at revenge when they face Utah Valley University (2-0), who beat SUU 58-47 on Nov. 28, on Dec. 18 at 12 p.m. in the America First Events Center.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics