The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds will continue Western Athletic Conference play in the America First Event Center against the New Mexico State University Aggies. Their following game will be against the Utah Valley University Wolverines.
Last time out
Last week, Southern Utah shot 49.2% from the field and 41.8% on their three-point attempts. The University of Texas Arlington Mavericks played spoiler on the Thunderbirds’ flawless WAC record and dropped Southern Utah to 9-1 in conference play. SUU remains No. 2 in the WAC standings after their 60-58 loss to UTA.
Fifth-year guard Cherita Daughtery averaged 15 points and five rebounds per game. She shot an efficient 90.9% from the charity strip and made 41.6% of her field goal attempts. Senior guards Tomekia Whitman and Samantha Johnston followed that with 12.5 points per game apiece. Johnston was lights out from three-point land and shot 63.6% from distance. Since her return, Whitman has added valuable minutes for head coach Tracy Sanders. She brought down five rebounds per game and shot 55% from the field.
The Thunderbirds smothered their opponents on defense this week. As a team, Southern Utah averaged five steals and seven blocks per game. Junior center Lizzy Williamson contributed 4.5 of those blocks and hauled in 8.5 rebounds per game. Although she had 21 points, four rebounds and two blocks against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, senior center Megan Jensen did not fare as well against UTA. She had four points and as many rebounds.
Overall, the Thunderbirds have been poised in clutch moments and will bounce back just fine.
New Mexico State Aggies
Southern Utah beat New Mexico State in their last matchup 61-58 on Dec. 31, 2022. The Aggies are now 7-4 in WAC play and have won three out of their last four games. New Mexico State fell to No. 3 Grand Canyon University in a 64-59 nail-biter. Head coach Jody Adams has propelled the Aggies to No. 7 in the WAC standings after a rocky start in conference play.
As a team, the Aggies are scoring 63.4 points per game while holding their opponents to 59.3 points per game. They are shooting 41.5% on field goal attempts and 27.9% from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Molly Kaiser is leading New Mexico State in points per game with 11.5. She is shooting 42.8% from the field and is making 78.5% of her free-throw attempts. Kaiser is the only player scoring in double digits for the Aggies. Following her is sophomore guard Sylena Peterson, who averages 9.8 points per game while shooting 43.6% from the field and making 32.7% of her three-point attempts.
Kaiser and junior guard Taylor Donaldson are averaging 1.4 steals apiece, while Peterson is leading with 1.8 steals per game. As a team, New Mexico State is averaging 10 steals per game and eliminating 2.1 per game.
The game will be a battle for both teams. This will be the third game since Saturday for Southern Utah.
Utah Valley Wolverines
The Wolverines are currently sitting at the bottom of the WAC standings in thirteenth place. Utah Valley has won two out of their 11 conference games and have a 5-17 overall record. Head coach Dan Nielson has the Wolverines fighting for a chance to make the 12-team WAC tournament in Las Vegas. Underestimating Utah Valley is what Southern Utah shouldn’t do since the Thunderbirds narrowly beat the Wolverines 70-66 in their first matchup of the season.
Utah Valley is scoring 53.5 points per game, which is 13.7 points less than their opponents. The Wolverines are making 37.5% of their field goal attempts and shooting an inefficient 25.3% from three-point territory.
Leading the offense with 14.6 points per game is sophomore forward Jaeden Brown. She is shooting a team-high 48.6% from the field, hauling in the most rebounds per game with 9.3, forcing 2.5 steals per game and eliminating 2.5 block attempts per game.
Junior forward Shay Fano and Brown are the only Wolverines who score in double figures. Fano averages 10.8 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game. She shoots 39.2% on her field goal attempts and 31.5% from beyond the arc.
As a team, Utah Valley averages nearly nine steals per game and 2.4 blocks per game. The Wolverines allow their opponents to shoot 40% from the field and 34% from three-point land.
Before battling Southern Utah on Saturday, the Wolverines will be taking on the Mavericks on Thursday.
Southern Utah will be at home on Thursday, Feb. 9, to face the Aggies at 3 p.m. MST. Their following game will be on the road against Utah Valley on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. MST. Both games can be streamed on ESPN+ or on Thunder 91.1 KSUU-FM.
Article by: Chevy Blackburn
Photos courtesy of SUU Athletics