The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team will hit the road with momentum this week, facing off against Western Athletic Conference opponents Abilene Christian University and Tarleton State University.
The Thunderbirds’ season has been highlighted by thrilling comebacks and shocking second halves, with the team dominantly closing the tight games. Their current four-game winning streak boosted them to first place in the WAC regular season standings with a 13-1 conference record. SUU’s overall record currently stands at 17-8. They sit in the second spot in the WAC Resume Seeding System, and it’s likely they will stay there until the season ends to earn a first round bye in the conference tournament.
Defensively, SUU has held its opponents to 64.8 points per game. The team commands the backboards, topping the conference in rebounds per game with an average of 42.2. Junior center Lizzy Williamson leads the WAC on this front with 257 total rebounds, putting her in the top 20 rebounders in the nation. Williamson has blocked 56 shots, 23 more than any other conference opponent.
Fifth-year senior Cherita Daugherty heads the Thunderbird offense as the No. 3 scorer in the WAC, hitting 40.7% of her shots from the field. Daugherty has drained 84.7% of her 131 free throws, buoying SUU’s impressive 75.3% from the free throw line. Currently No. 4 in assists in the conference, junior guard Daylani Ballena averages 3.68 assists per game.
The Thunderbirds fight hard for every victory and, with only four games left in the season, they will need to continue doing so to secure the best record in the WAC.
The ACU Wildcats have lost six of their last eight games, dragging their conference record to 6-9 and their overall record to 12-14. The team slots in at ninth in the WAC Resume Seeding System. Despite their recent struggles, ACU is ranked No. 6 offensively and No. 4 defensively in the WAC.
Abilene Christian averages 70.8 points per game, with four players scoring over 11 points per game. Freshman forward Addison Martin has tallied 66 offensive rebounds and sunk 54.9% of her shots from the field. Fifth-year senior Madi Miller leads the team in three-point accuracy and tops the conference in total three-point scores with 63.
The top scorer in ACU’s offense, Maleeah Langstaff, also leads the team in rebounds with an average of 6.2 per game. As a team, the Wildcats average 7.81 steals per game and 2.85 blocks.
ACU plays clean basketball, ranking No. 11 out of 13 WAC teams for turnovers per game, while SUU has the fewest steals in the conference. The Thunderbirds will have to find a way to disrupt ACU’s efficient ball handling this week to knock the Wildcats to double-digit conference losses.
Tarleton State suffered a heartbreaking 59-58 loss last week to Sam Houston State, piling another loss on their 1-14 WAC record and 7-19 overall record. Tarleton still has a chance at a tournament run, sitting at No. 11 out of 12 conference spots up for grabs. SUU has already downed Tarleton once this season, logging a 55-48 win where the Thunderbirds out-rebounded the Texans 45-27.
The Texans’ star player, Teresa Da Silva, leads the team’s offense, averaging 13.8 points per game while no other player averages more than nine. She’s put in 37.3% of her three-point shots this season. One of only three conference players with more assists than SUU’s Ballena, senior guard Mayra Caicedo averages 4.6 per game.
A duo of Da Silva and Caicedo leads on the defensive side of the ball, as well. Da Silva leads the team in both rebounds and blocks, while Caicedo tops the team with 44 steals, making her No. 6 in the category for the conference.
Tarleton is a cold opponent and the least efficient rebounding team in the conference, so if SUU can keep up their strong performance in the paint, the Thunderbirds should be able to lock in another win.
The Texans will face the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, Feb. 22, before their matchup against the Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds will travel to Abilene, Texas, to face the Wildcats on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 5 p.m. MST. SUU’s two-game road trip through Texas will conclude at Tarleton State on Saturday, Feb. 25, where they will play the Texans at 1 p.m. MST. The games can be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Kale Nelson
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