The Thunderbirds have started Western Athletic Conference play on the right note and look to keep it going with two crucial home games this week versus Utah Valley University and Sam Houston State University.
A look at the Thunderbirds
Southern Utah University enters Wednesday’s conference matchup with a 7-7 overall record and a 3-0 conference record. The Thunderbirds enter the comfy confines of the America First Event Center after a two-game road trip to New Mexico State University and Seattle University.
The Thunderbirds have dominated the rebounding battle this season and are one of the most productive teams in the country. Southern Utah sits at 24th in rebounds per game with an average of 42. SUU is 38th in rebound margin, outrebounding opponents by 7.9. Additionally, the Thunderbirds are 25th in defensive rebounds per game with 29.7.
Junior Lizzy Williamson has been key to the Thunderbirds’ success on the glass. Williamson is in the top 30 nationally in blocks, blocks per game and multiple rebounding categories.
Graduate student Cherita Daugherty leads the Thunderbirds in scoring and steals. Daugherty averages 14.6 points per game and has racked up 16 steals on the season. Daugherty is third on the team in rebounds.
Versus Utah Valley University
The Utah Valley Wolverines enter the matchup 4-11 on the season with a 1-3 conference record. UVU is currently on a three-game losing streak and is ranked 11th in the WAC standings.
The Wolverines are led by sophomore Jaeden Brown, who is currently in the top 20 nationally in blocks and blocks per game. Brown is also a threat on the glass, leading the team in rebounding and scoring. Brown is 41st in the country in rebounds per game at 9.3 and is 39th in the nation in steals per game with 2.5.
Former Thunderbird Shay Fano, who transferred to Utah Valley, is one of the top three-point shooters on the roster with a .321 percentage.
Versus Sam Houston State University
The Sam Houston Bearkats enter this week at 6-7 on the season and 2-1 in conference play. The Bearkats play at NMSU before their matchup versus the Thunderbirds.
SHSU is currently sixth in the WAC standings. Graduate student Chyna Allen leads the Bearkats in scoring, averaging 17.7 a game.
Senior Madelyn Batista leads the roster in rebounds and steals. As a team, the Bearkats are ranked 20th in the nation in free throw attempts and second in the country in offensive rebounds per game, averaging 18.7 per contest.
The Thunderbirds and the Wolverines know each other very well, with SUU leading the all-time series 15-9. Last time out, the Thunderbirds lost 60-54 to the Wolverines in Cedar City on Nov. 16, 2021. The Thunderbirds’ last victory over Utah Valley was a 71-58 win in 2019. Southern Utah looks to end a two-game losing spell to their in-state conference rival.
The Thunderbirds will take on Sam Houston State for the first time in program history.
Southern Utah will face Utah Valley University on Wednesday, Jan. 11, with tip-off at 6:30 p.m. Then, on Saturday, Jan. 14, the Thunderbirds will play against Sam Houston State University, with tip-off at 4:30 p.m. Both games will be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
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