Southern Utah University women’s basketball will make the trek up I-15 to face the No. 12 Utah Utes in an in-state showdown.
The upset-minded Thunderbirds look to keep the momentum going after a dominating 77-44 win over La Sierra University on Dec. 17. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Thunderbirds.
Senior Alex Lord led the Thunderbirds to victory with a new career high, scoring 30 points and racking up 10 rebounds.
The Thunderbirds led 23-20 coming out of the first quarter and kept their defense high throughout the next three, allowing La Sierra no more than 15 points per quarter.
Lord earned her first double-double of the season, and senior Megan Jensen collected her second double-double, finishing the night with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Southern Utah enters Thursday’s matchup 4-6 with key wins over the University of New Mexico and Texas A&M University-Commerce. The Thunderbirds have had a tough non-conference stint facing off against No. 16 University of Oregon and No. 22 Gonzaga University. The Utes will be the third top 25 opponent the Thunderbirds will face.
The Thunderbirds have dominated the rebounding battle and are one of the top rebounding teams in the country, sitting at 11th with an average 46 rebounds per game.. The Thunderbirds are 31st in rebound margin with 9.5, 14th in defensive rebounds per game with 31.3 and 41st in offensive rebounds per game with 14.7.
Redshirt junior Lizzy Williamson has been dominating in the paint in national categories. Williamson is in the top 15 in both blocks and blocks per game. She is one of the key rebounders for the Thunderbirds and is in the top 30 in rebounding categories nationally. Additionally, Williamson leads the Thunderbirds in scoring, averaging 12.4 per game and possessing five double-doubles, placing her at 21st in the nation.
Junior Daylani Ballena leads the Thunderbirds in assists and is averaging 4.2 per game. Ballena leads the team in three-point percentage at .439 and is third in points per game at 11.9.
Looking at the opponent
No. 12 University of Utah comes in with wins over Brigham Young University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi and University of Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners’ only loss on the season was against the Utes earlier on.
The Utes are one of ten teams with an unblemished record so far this season. At 11-0, they’re fresh off a win over Weber State University on Dec. 20.
The Utes have one of the most productive offenses in the country, ranking in the top five in assists to turnover ratio, assists per game, field goal percentage and scoring offense.
Junior Alissa Pili leads the Utes in scoring with an average of 20.6 per game and is one of the best scorers nationally, being in the top ten in both field goals and field goal percentage.
The Utes lead the all-time matchup 12-2. Last time out, the Thunderbirds lost 63-49 to the Utes in Salt Lake City on Nov. 30, 2016. The Thunderbirds’ last victory over the Utes was a 80-59 win in 2007. Southern Utah looks to end the three-game losing spell to their in-state rival.
Southern Utah will face University of Utah on Thursday, Dec. 22, with tip-off at 5 p.m. The game will be held at the Huntsman Center and will be streamed on PAC-12 Network.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics