The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds continued Western Athletic Conference play with a 63-60 win on the road against the Grand Canyon University Antelopes on Wednesday, Jan. 25. In their following game, SUU won 55-48 at home on Saturday, Jan. 28, against the Tarleton State University Texans.
Versus Grand Canyon
Southern Utah got off to a rocky start, allowing Grand Canyon to jump out 6-2. The two traded baskets, but the Antelopes slowly added to their lead. As the Thunderbirds entered the second quarter, they found themselves down 15-8 to GCU.
Offensively, the Thunderbirds picked it up in the second quarter. A 10-3 SUU run was sparked with a layup by junior center Lizzy Williamson. Graduate guard Cherita Daugherty and senior guard Samantha Johnston contributed eight of the 10 points. Daugherty made two free throws and a layup, while Johnston went 2-2 from downtown. Southern Utah earned their first lead 20-18, but the Antelopes fought back.
Sophomore guard Naudia Evans scored seven consecutive points for Grand Canyon to equalize SUU’s surge. Despite Southern Utah outscoring Grand Canyon 26-20 in the second quarter, the half ended with a 35-34 Antelope lead.
The third quarter reflected the first: gritty and low-scoring. Senior guard Daylani Ballena scored four consecutive points to neutralize the Antelopes’ 8-0 run. Grand Canyon’s run was led by junior guard Tiarra Brown, who gained four points in that span. After four unanswered points by sophomore guard Aaliyah Collins, senior guard Tomekia Whitman ended the third quarter with a layup for Southern Utah. The Antelopes outscored the Thunderbirds 12-7 in the quarter and were up 47-41.
Grand Canyon held an eight-point lead for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. The Thunderbirds surged back again, but this time they would not be denied. Ballena scored half of Southern Utah’s points during a 18-7 run in the last seven minutes of the game and hit the three, taking the lead 59-56. She ended the game with 15 points and four rebounds. Whitman closed the game 4-4 from the free throw line as the Antelopes hoped for a miss. The Thunderbirds edged out another narrow victory, 63-60 on the road.
With the win, Southern Utah’s record moves to 11-7 overall and 7-0 in the WAC. Whitman led the Thunderbirds in scoring with 15 points off the bench. She played 21 minutes, which is the most since Southern Utah faced Gonzaga University on Nov. 22, a good sign for head coach Tracy Sanders’ depth as the Thunderbirds continue tough WAC play.
Versus Tarleton State
In the first quarter, Southern Utah started strong with a 6-2 run. The Texans fought back and took an 8-6 lead, but the Thunderbirds ended on a 5-0 run of their own. Ballena and Whitman combined for seven of the Thunderbirds’ 11 first-quarter points.
Tarleton State forced Southern Utah into a shot clock violation for their first possession in the second quarter. They followed that with a 7-0 run to take the lead back 15-12. The two traded baskets until the three minute mark; the Texans were still in control 22-19. Junior guard Teresa Da Silva had 11 first-half points for Tarleton State. For the Thunderbirds, Whitman and Ballena had seven points apiece. As the teams entered the locker room, Tarleton State led 27-25.
To start the second half, Southern Utah went on a 9-2 run to take a five-point lead. After the teams traded runs, Whitman converted an and one play to give the Thunderbirds a seven-point lead. SUU carried that lead into the fourth quarter, up 43-36.
Tarleton went on a 3-0 run in the first two and half minutes then Johnston responded with a three-pointer for the Thunderbirds. The Texans responded with a four-point run of their own to cut the Thunderbirds’ lead to three points. In the last four minutes, the Thunderbirds started to separate from the Texans. Tarleton called a timeout, as Southern Utah held a seven-point lead with 47 seconds left. With only one free throw from each team, the Thunderbirds came out on top, 55-48.
Southern Utah had three players score double-digits points. Whitman and Daugherty scored 14 points each, while Ballena finished with 10 points. Daughterty also had 11 rebounds, which marked her third double-double of the season.
Southern Utah will travel to Texas on Thursday, Feb. 2, to face the University of Texas Arlington at 10:30 a.m. MST.
Article by: Chevy Blackburn
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