The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds continued Western Athletic Conference play with a 63-56 win at home versus the New Mexico State Aggies on Thursday, Feb. 9. In their following game, SUU won 75-70 on the road Saturday, Feb. 11, against the Utah Valley Wolverines.
New Mexico State at Southern Utah
The Aggies jumped out 12-2 early on, which resulted in a timeout by head coach Tracy Sanders. Senior guard Samantha Johnston responded with a corner three to make it 12-5. In the final two minutes, both teams traded baskets, but NMSU was up 16-9 at the end of the first quarter.
NMSU started the second quarter on a 7-2 run that was ended by a pair of made free throws from junior center Lizzy Williamson. Every run the Thunderbirds attempted was shot down by the Aggies, making it impossible for SUU to cut the lead to single digits. Junior guard Molly Kaiser led NMSU’s offense and helped the Aggies go up 37-24 at halftime. Kaiser ended the game with 15 points.
This game was a tale of two halves. Southern Utah went on a 9-1 run in three minutes and closed NMSU’s lead to five points, 38-33. The two fought back and forth between a five-point lead until the end of the third quarter, where the Aggies remained up 48-43. Graduate guard Cherita Daugherty scored or assisted on 11 of SUU’s 19 points in the third quarter.
Daugherty started the fourth quarter on a 4-0 run of her own and closed the gap to one point. She then fouled Kaiser, who made one free throw that put the Aggies up 49-47. Williamson made a free throw line jumper that tied the game at 49. This was followed by a layup from senior guard Alexa Lord, which gave SUU their first lead. She scored six points for SUU in crunch time. From there, the Thunderbirds battled their way by NMSU in a 63-56 victory.
Off of a great second-half performance, Daugherty tied her career high in points with 28, hauled in eight rebounds and shot a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. Senior guard Daylani Ballena had 11 points and dished out two assists. In the paint, Williamson had a game-high 11 rebounds and added 10 points.
Southern Utah at Utah Valley
Southern Utah sprung out to an early 10-4 lead on Utah Valley after Williamson scored eight points. Johnston connected on back-to-back three-pointers, which propelled the Thunderbirds to a 8-4 run. Down 18-8, the Wolverines chipped away and finished the first quarter down 24-16.
It was all SUU in the first half; their lead grew to 46-34 as they entered the locker room. Johnston went 4-7 from three-point land, had 12 points and dished out five assists by halftime. Senior center Megan Jensen followed with nine points, four assists and three rebounds. For the Wolverines, sophomore forward Elina Tausinga went a perfect 4-4, earning her nine points. Sophomore guard Ally Criddle and freshman guard Kaylee Byron combined for 17 points in the first half.
The third quarter was much of the same, as Johnston continued to make her three-pointers and Jensen made three layups. Southern Utah played great offense, and Utah Valley could not match it. The Thunderbirds grew their lead to 15 points as the third quarter came to an end.
Utah Valley went on a 15-5 run to start the fourth quarter, which was ended by a made jump shot from Ballena. With three minutes left, the Thunderbirds had diminished to 71-63, and a technical foul on SUU pursued. UVU made three of their four free throw attempts, making the score 71-66. The Wolverines closed the gap to 73-70, which was followed by a missed three from Lord. Utah Valley called a timeout and missed a three-point attempt. Johnston made two free throws that put the Thunderbirds up 75-70. The Wolverines turned the ball over on their final possession, which gave SUU a narrow victory.
Johnston tied for a game-high 20 points, shot 54.5% from three-point land and played the entire game. Junior forward Shay Fano was the Wolverine who matched Johnston’s 20 points. Jensen shot 77% from the field, had 19 points, dished out five assists and hauled in seven rebounds against her former team.
After the two victories, Southern Utah’s overall record is 15-8, and they have a 11-1 record in WAC play.
Southern Utah will be back home on Thursday, Feb. 16, to face the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Article by: Chevy Blackburn
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