The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team swept their home games this week with two huge wins.
In the first matchup of the week against Utah Valley University on Jan.11, the Thunderbirds fought hard and earned a 70-66 win. Their second matchup against Sam Houston State University was a 60-55 victory on Jan. 14. The Thunderbirds are now 9-7 on the season, 5-0 in Western Athletic Conference play and first in the standings.
SUU versus Utah Valley University
UVU took the lead early on in the first quarter, but at the 4:07 minute mark, junior Samantha Johnston hit a three-pointer to cut the Wolverines’ lead down to one. The Thunderbirds took the lead on the next possession from a layup by freshman Ashley Banks. With the momentum pointing towards the Thunderbirds, they led at the end of the first quarter 21-16.
The second quarter was a battle between teams giving it their all. The Thunderbirds started the second quarter red-hot. Former Wolverine Megan Jensen sank two free throws, extending the lead 26-17. Jensen finished the game with 22 points and four rebounds. However, the Wolverines would not go away without a fight, cutting the Thunderbird lead to one.
After missed opportunities by both teams, freshman Kaylee Byon gave the Wolverines a 32-30 lead after a made three-pointer. The lead did not last long with SUU making two crucial shots in the last minute.
Johnston made a three with 15 seconds left to give the Thunderbirds a 35-33 lead at halftime. She finished the night with nine points.
The third quarter was a showcase of scoring with both teams lighting up the basket. Cherita Daugherty gave Southern Utah their largest lead of the night, 50-42, after sinking a free throw with less than four minutes remaining. Daugherty led the Thunderbirds in assists with 10 and scored 18 points, marking her third double-double on the season. Just like the second quarter, UVU would not go away and cut the Thunderbird lead to one at the end of the quarter. The Thunderbirds led 54-53 heading into the final quarter.
The Southern Utah defense came up big in the fourth quarter, only allowing 13 points. Utah Valley kept it close, but with two minutes left, Daugherty put the game in the direction of the Thunderbirds, increasing the lead to five. Senior Alexa Lord hit a crucial free throw with four seconds left to put the game to rest.
SUU versus Sam Houston State University
After a win against Utah Valley, the Thunderbirds looked to continue the momentum against the Bearkats.
The first quarter was a low-scoring affair where both teams struggled to get any rhythm going. SUU had a seven-point lead through the middle stage of the quarter after a three-pointer by junior Daylani Ballena. SHSU fought and took the lead around the one minute mark after a made three-point shot by sophomore Sydnee Kemp. The Bearkats led 16-13 after the first quarter.
A different-minded Thunderbird team entered the second quarter. The Southern Utah defense shut down the Bearkat offense, only allowing five points. The Thunderbirds outscored SHSU by 15 points and took a 33-21 lead at halftime.
The third quarter showed a focused Sam Houston team, taking the strategy the Thunderbirds had in the second quarter and applying it to their own gameplan. The Bearkats shut down the SUU offense, allowing ten points.
Even with the Southern Utah offense struggling to make a field goal, Daugherty scored eight of the ten points, all from the free throw line. She finished the game with 28 points and was perfect 16-16 from the free throw line. The amazing performance places her first in program history for free throw percentage in a game, topping the old record set by Janis Beal, who went 12-12 versus Utah Valley in 2004.
At the end of the third quarter, the Thunderbirds led 43-36.
An action-packed fourth quarter started with the Thunderbirds scoring first from a layup by redshirt junior Lizzy Williamson. Southern Utah responded to the Bearkats, going bucket for bucket and continuing their lead. Daugherty sank another free throw to give the Thunderbirds a 12-point lead midway through the final quarter. Sam Houston cut the lead to single digits in the final stages of the fourth quarter, but it was to no avail — the Thunderbirds held on for the win.
Southern Utah will face Utah Tech University on Thursday, Jan. 19, with tip-off at 7 p.m. This is the regular season finale between the two teams.
The game will be held at Burns Arena in St. George and will be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photo courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org