SUU Women’s Basketball Looks to Keep Momentum as They Take On In-State Rival Weber State

Coming off two solid wins against Western Athletic Conference opponent University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team looks to keep the momentum rolling against in-state rival Weber State University.

SUU (5-4, 0-2) will search for their first conference win on Thursday and Saturday after they dropping two games in Moscow, Idaho against the University of Idaho just two weeks ago. 

The T-Birds responded to the Idaho losses with strong outings against UTRGV at home last week, winning game one by seven points (80-73) and game two by 28 points (92-64).

Senior star Liz Graves, who transferred from Weber to SUU before the 2021 season, will take on her former team after winning her second Big Sky Player of the Week award thanks to a 33 point 12 rebound game one against UTRGV. Graves is averaging 18.9 PPG, good for first in the BS, and 8.9 RPG, good for second in the conference.

Junior Cherita Daugherty is also displaying consistent performances while leading the team in assists so far this season (3.3 APG). Against UTRGV, Daugherty had two strong games averaging a combined 12 points and six assists per game. Daugherty is second on the team in scoring with 11.6 PPG and third in rebounding with 5.3 RPG.

Weber State (0-7, 0-4) has struggled out of the gate this season due to a tough opening schedule. Their seven losses include two against Big Sky favorite Idaho State University, two against Eastern Washington University (4-2, third place), as well as 8-1 Boise State University and 9-2 Grand Canyon University, who SUU beat earlier this season.

Scouting Report

The Wildcats are led by junior guard Kori Pentzer, who is averaging 10.1 PPG and 2.9 RPG. Pentzer is shooting a team high 42% from the field, and has only missed one free throw on the season on 26 attempts

Junior Shianne Johnson is second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.5 PPG, and has finished in double digits in every game this season other than a zero point performance against Texas A&M International in the first game of the season.

Sophomore forward Emma Tobert leads the Wildcats in rebounds per game at 6.8 RPG, and is third on the team in scoring with 8.8 PPG.

Junior Aloma Solovi is the only member of head coach Velaida Harris’ squad to start all seven games. She is averaging 5.3 PPG and 2.6 APG.

Weber State leaves much to be desired from a statistical standpoint. They rank last in the Big Sky in scoring offense (57.9 PPG), scoring margin (-18.6 PPG), field goal percentage (34%), field goal percentage allowed (44%), 3-point percentage (23%), 3-pointers made (28), steals (5.3 SPG), and turnover margin (-5.14 TOPG). 

The Wildcats rank in the better half in only two Big Sky categories: Offensive rebounding (third at 12.9 ORPG) and free throw percentage (third at 77%).

In both of those categories, however, SUU ranks first and second respectively in the Big Sky, with 15.2 ORPG and a free throw percentage of 78%. 

Weber State also lost a key player in Ula Chamberlain, who announced she was transferring after just three games this season.

Keys to the Game

  • Stick to what works

It could be easy for Sanders to see these two games as opportunities to implement new offensive schemes or defensive presses, but doing so could have consequences.

SUU fans have learned just how hungry winless teams are for that first W. 

On Jan. 7, fans watched in agony as a winless University of Idaho men’s basketball team held a three point lead late in the game against the T-Bird’s men’s team. Ultimately, the men’s team pulled out the win, but allowing any Division I basketball team to hang around late in games they don’t deserve to win is a dangerous thing to do. 

Head coach Tracy Sanders runs a pick-and-roll heavy offensive scheme. With ball-handlers like Daugherty, Margarita Santini, and Daylani Ballena, and rollers like Graves and Darri Frandsen, the scheme often works to perfection.

It isn’t broken. Don’t mess with it. Use it. Win.

Sanders also implements a variety of defensive schemes, including a fullcourt press that slows the pace of the game, a 2-3 zone to limit penetration inside, and of course, a switch-heavy approach to man-to-man defense. SUU’s adaptability on defense makes opposing offenses uncomfortable.

It isn’t broken. Don’t mess with it. Use it. Win.

  • Do it for Liz

With Weber State being Graves’ former team, there isn’t much of a doubt that she will come into this game with the same “chip on the shoulder” she said she played with when she took on Brigham Young University, where she originally committed out of high school, on Dec. 18.

Against BYU (her first stop in her collegiate career), Graves dropped a career-high 34 points and snagged 10 rebounds. 

BYU ultimately came away with the win due to an unbreakable press they implemented in the second half, but Graves’ performance was nothing short of spectacular.

Look for Graves to keep that chip on her shoulder and show her former team what they lost. 

Is it possible that Graves has two 30 point/10 rebound games this week?

It very well could be.

Where, When, How?

SUU and Weber State face off in game one of the two game series in Cedar City on Thursday, Jan. 21. Tip off is at 6:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on PlutoTV. Game two will be held in Ogden on Saturday, Jan. 23, with tip-off scheduled for 12:00 p.m.

Story by: Kelton Jacobsen
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletic Department Strategic Communications