SUU women’s basketball has strong start to conference play

The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team took two wins this week as the Western Athletic Conference began competition. On Dec. 29, they beat the Utah Tech University Trailblazers at home by a score of 76-61. They then traveled to Las Cruces on Dec. 31 to earn a 61-58 victory over the New Mexico State University Aggies. SUU is currently the only team in the WAC to have earned two conference wins.

Versus Utah Tech

Southern Utah stifled offensive powerhouse Utah Tech early on, giving up just four points in the first quarter. They allowed one field goal and one free throw within the first 10 minutes. SUU lost a bit of their defensive flare as the game went on, though, and Utah Tech outscored them in the second quarter. The first half ended with SUU on top, 40-25. The Thunderbirds stayed in control and were ahead by double digits for the majority of the game, leading to their 15 point win. Out of 13 teams in the WAC, SUU was ranked 11th and Utah Tech was ranked second prior to the matchup.

SUU’s standouts were graduate guard Cherita Daugherty and senior center Megan Jensen. Each scored 19 points with Daugherty shooting 50% from the field and Jensen shooting 90%. Jensen also had 10 rebounds in the game, working with her point total to give her a third double-double on the season. Junior guard Daylani Ballena was a big contributor for the Thunderbirds as well by scoring 10 points of her own and dishing out seven assists. 

The Trailblazers were held to a 31.7% field goal percentage and made just 20 shots from the field. They struggled on defense as well and gave up 34 points in the paint. They were also outrebounded by SUU and allowed nine offensive rebounds along with 10 second chance points. This was SUU’s third straight victory against Utah Tech, dating back to December of 2020.

Versus New Mexico State

The Thunderbirds and the Aggies were neck and neck as soon as the game started, swapping the lead four times in the first quarter. The Aggies began to take control in the second quarter and led by as many as 10 points before the Thunderbirds cut their deficit down to just five going into halftime. The game stayed close in the third as both teams put up 16 points each. SUU closed the game out in the final quarter, overcoming their five-point deficit and scoring just enough for the win.

Cherita Daugherty was the star of the show and scored 26 points, her season high. She shot 60% from the field and 88.9% from the free throw line. Junior center Lizzy Williamson pitched in with nine points of her own. She also collected 12 rebounds for the Thunderbirds, with five of them coming off the offensive glass. As a team, SUU had a 53.8% field goal percentage. They especially excelled near the basket, as shown by their 30 points in the paint.

Turnovers almost took SUU out of the game. They gave up 22 turnovers and allowed New Mexico State to score 20 points off of them. However, they forced miss after miss to keep themselves in it. Despite making more field goals than the Thunderbirds, the Aggies only shot 35.4% from the field and were blocked twice by Williamson. They committed 24 fouls and gave up 17 points to SUU as a result. SUU is now 3-4 all-time against New Mexico State.

Looking ahead

After this week, Southern Utah’s overall record stands at 6-7, with a 2-0 record in the WAC. They are currently at the top of the conference standings. For their next game, they will continue their road trip and head to Washington to face Seattle University. This will be the first time the Thunderbirds and the Redhawks will compete against each other. The game will take place on Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Redhawk Center in Seattle at 3 p.m. MST and can be streamed on ESPN+.


Story and photos by: Anden Garfield