Southern Utah University women’s basketball secured first place in the Western Athletic Conference with two wins at home against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Stephen F. Austin State University.
Southern Utah got off to a slow start, which allowed the Vaqueros to jump out 7-3 after a three-pointer from sophomore Iyana Dorsey. She led the Vaqueros with 21 points. The Thunderbirds responded with an 8-4 run to tie the game at 11. SUU used the momentum to take an 18-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Thunderbirds continued the offensive momentum in the second quarter, shooting 63% from the field. Graduate student Cherita Daugherty led the offense in the second quarter and finished the game with 32 points. She knocked down two free throws around the two minute mark to give the Thunderbirds a seven-point lead. Southern Utah led 38-29 at halftime.
UTRGV switched to a different gear in the third quarter, outscoring SUU 22-8. The Vaqueros forced seven turnovers, which led to more possessions and scoring opportunities. Junior Halie Jones scored four unanswered points to finish the third quarter, helping the Vaqueros to a 51-46 lead.
Southern Utah often finishes strong, and this game was no exception. The Thunderbirds outscored the Vaqueros 27-15 in the final quarter. SUU soared back into the game and tied it with four minutes left after a jumper by Daugherty. On the next possession, junior Samantha Johnston scored, and SUU regained the lead 60-58. The rest was smooth sailing, and the Thunderbirds won 73-66.
The first quarter was back and forth and tied early on. Back-to-back three-pointers by junior Daylani Ballena broke the tie. The Ladyjacks responded with a three-pointer of their own from junior Tyler McCliment-Call, cutting the lead down to three. Senior Tomekia Whitman came back with two free throws at the end of the first quarter, giving Southern Utah the 14-13 lead.
The Thunderbirds countered with a huge defensive effort in the second quarter, holding SFA to 46% shooting. This quarter was a repeat of the first with both teams trading baskets. Southern Utah started to pull away towards the end of the first half after a layup from senior Megan Jensen. Jensen scored 16 points and six rebounds. The Thunderbirds led 37-29 at halftime.
Stephen F. Austin outscored the Thunderbirds 16-12 in the third quarter. Southern Utah answered back with crucial buckets from Daugherty, Whitman, Jensen and redshirt junior Lizzy Williamson. Williamson earned another double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Thunderbirds carried a 49-45 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Southern Utah held their lead in the final quarter despite a courageous effort from junior Avery Brittingham and freshman Jordan Harrison of the Ladyjacks, who scored the majority of the points in the fourth quarter. Crucial fouls committed by SFA secured a 67-59 victory for the Thunderbirds.
Southern Utah will head down to Texas for a two-game road trip. The first game is against the Abilene Christian University Wildcats on Feb. 23, with tip-off at 5 p.m. MST. The game will be held at Moody Coliseum in Abilene and will be streamed on ESPN+. This is the first and only time the teams will face off in the regular season.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
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