The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team won 92-64 on Monday night to complete a series sweep against improvised opponents The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at the American First Events Center.
The T-Birds, who were originally scheduled to host Eastern Washington University in Big Sky Conference play on Thursday and Saturday, did not trail in the contest and shot 34-of-54 (63%) from the field and 9-of-17 (53%) on 3-pointers to win in what ended up being a blowout.
“There was just a little bit more movement today [on offense],” head coach Tracy Sanders told reporters postgame. “We just did a good job of finding people and getting easy shots.”
Five T-Birds finished in double figures, and every player on the T-Birds’ roster saw the floor before the final buzzer. SUU’s bench scored a season-high 45 points as the Thunderbirds eclipsed their season-high in points, scoring eight more than the 84 that earned them a win against Grand Canyon University on Dec. 12.
Liz Graves scored 18 points and made 4-of-5 3FG. Kinsley Barrington set a career-high with 12 points, and Madelyn Eaton also finished with 12. Cherita Daugherty added 10 points and seven assists.
Darri Frandsen scored 11 points in her return to the lineup after sitting out Sunday’s 80-73 win for personal reasons.
“Sitting there watching was probably a good thing for [Frandsen], too, because she got to see what we needed to adjust,” Sanders said. “She’s a great scorer for us… and she does a great job of rolling off of screens, and I think that was where we really established that pick-and-roll tonight.”
Frandsen scored the first six points of the game for the T-Birds, helping her team to an 8-2 run after the opening tip.
Graves drilled back-to-back 3-pointers before consecutive Eaton layups and a 3-pointer by Daylani Ballena, who made her first start Monday, capped a 9-0 run that put SUU up 21-11.
Frandsen converted on a 3-point play following a Vaquero turnover, and at the end of the quarter the T-Birds led 29-20. They made 11-of-14 field goals and 4-of-7 3-pointers in the period.
Frandsen scored all of her points in the first quarter and only played 15 minutes in the contest due to foul trouble.
The Thunderbirds extended the lead to 17 after another 9-0 run early in the second quarter, and they did not look back — outscoring the Vaqueros 25-13 in the period.
Rebecca Black scored a long 2-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give SUU a 54-33 advantage at the halftime break.
The streak of hot shooting continued into the third quarter, and a stretch of six consecutive made FGs pushed the lead to 27.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Sanders had emptied her bench as the game was well in hand.
Two free-throws by Lizzie Williamson put SUU up by 31, their largest lead of the game, with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like we came out and set the tempo from the beginning,” Sanders said. “Obviously we shot the ball pretty well tonight, but I think overall [players] one through fifteen we did a great job of playing as a team and making each other better.”
SUU outrebounded UTRGV 38-20 in the game. Despite committing 19 turnovers, SUU’s ball movement was the key to their offensive success as the T-Birds racked up a season-high 23 assists compared to 11 for the Vaqueros.
With the win, SUU moves to 5-4 on the season while UTRGV falls to 4-4. The T-Birds will tip-off the Cedar City leg of a home-and-home series with in-state rivals Weber State University at the America First Events on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz