The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds will be playing the Utah Tech University Trailblazers at home on Thursday, Dec. 29. The Trailblazer’s 8-3 record has led them to No. 3 in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
Southern Utah enters the matchup as No. 11 in the WAC with a 4-7 record after a loss to No. 11 University of Utah Utes. The Thunderbirds could not outdo the Utes’ No. 2 nationally ranked offense that averages 92.5 points per game.
A look at the Trailblazers
Utah Tech is scoring effectively by shooting 46.4% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. That has boosted the Trailblazer’s points per game average to 83.1. This attack is led by senior guard Breaunna Gillen, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game. Gillen’s 7.3 assists per game helps her control the offense for head coach JD Gustin.
Sophomore guard Macie Warren is not too far behind Gillen with 18.9 points per game. She is shooting an efficient 35.4% from three-point land and 50.9% from the field. Warren has hauled in 5.4 rebounds per game, which places her second on the team in that department.
Leading the team in rebounds per game with 8.1 is senior guard Maggie McCord. Her 12.8 points per game has come efficiently by shooting 44.2% from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc.
The Trailblazer’s defense is forcing 16.9 turnovers per game, with a large majority stemming from their 10.4 steals per game. Junior forward Emily Isaacson is leading the way with 2.1 steals per game. Warren and sophomore forward Averi Papa are right behind, each contributing two steals per game.
SUU’s season so far
The Thunderbirds’ rocky start is the worst since head coach Tracy Sanders’ first season at SUU. She has been missing senior guard Tomekia Witman, who has played in only six games. The team has faced three nationally ranked opponents in No. 11 University of Utah, No. 17 University of Oregon and No. 19 Gonzaga University.
Offense has struggled this year. The Thunderbirds are averaging 67.5 points per game and have allowed 72.1 points per game. The team is shooting 40.9% from the field and 27.7% from three-point land.
Graduate guard Cherita Daugherty is averaging a team-high 12.6 points per game. She is second in steals per game for the Thunderbirds with one per game. Daugherty’s 3.6 assists per game is second on the team behind junior guard Daylani Ballena.
Ballena averages 11.6 points per game and is shooting a ridiculous 44.4% from beyond the arc. She is also averaging 4.1 assists per game and shooting a team-high 85.7% from the charity stripe.
Holding down the paint for the Thunderbirds is junior center Lizzy Williamson. Her 10.5 rebounds per game places her first in the WAC and No. 11 in the country. She is also averaging 2.27 blocks per game, which ranks first in the WAC and No. 17 in the nation. Williamson is stellar on both ends of the court; her 11.8 points per game means that she averages a double-double.
To come out with a victory this Thursday, the Thunderbirds will have to focus on limiting turnovers. They are currently giving the ball away 19.1 times per game and are facing a greedy Trailblazer defense.
The Thunderbirds have not lost against the Trailblazers in the matchup’s history. SUU has a lot to prove against a top WAC opponent in the America First Event Center at 6:30 p.m.
Article by: Chevy Blackburn
Photos by: SUU Athletics