The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team split even on their two-game road trip to Texas, taking both Western Athletic Conference opponents into overtime shootouts.
A loss to Abilene Christian University and a win against Tarleton State University landed the Thunderbirds at an 18-9 overall record. The split kept SUU’s 14-2 conference record in the lead, one game ahead of Stephen F. Austin University. The Thunderbirds remained second to SFA in the WAC Resume Seeding System while Grand Canyon University crept within range to make SUU’s next week even more important for their tournament chances.
Versus Abilene Christian
During the first road game of their trip on Feb. 23, the Thunderbirds managed an outstanding fourth quarter comeback and dragged the Wildcats into overtime, but it wasn’t enough to save them from their 89-83 loss.
The game started slow with the teams holding each other in check for a close first half. ACU led by two, the game brewing at 31-29 as the coaches made their halftime adjustments. Entering the third quarter, the Wildcats seemed to have the Thunderbirds all figured out, scoring a grand total of 29 points in one quarter.
Down 60-46 at the end of the third, SUU’s players knew they needed to flip the momentum. They disrupted ACU’s offense by taking advantage of missed shots and bringing the game back within reach. The Thunderbirds nailed four three-point shots and made 73.3% of their field goals while holding ACU to 27.8% of their field goals. By overcoming a 14-point deficit, their fourth quarter tied the game up at 74-74.
ACU managed to quickly pull ahead in overtime, having expended SUU’s energy and regained their own. The Wildcats escaped with a win in their only game for the week and outscored SUU 15-9 in the final period.
Senior guard Tomekia Whitman compiled a double-double off the bench, racking up 18 points to match leading scorer Cherita Daugherty for the game. Junior guard Samantha Johnston made four three-point shots and all three of her free throws.
Fifth-year senior Maleeah Langstaff took control of the game for the Wildcats, totaling 34 points in an efficient performance. ACU nearly doubled SUU’s eight offensive rebounds with their 15, an uncommon occurrence against the best rebounding team in the conference.
The win bumped ACU to a 13-14 overall record and a 7-9 conference record. It marked SUU’s second conference loss of the season.
Versus Tarleton State
On Feb. 25, in a more fruitful but even closer overtime game, the incredibly accurate Thunderbirds handed the Tarleton State Texans their twelfth straight loss.
SUU bounced back from their loss to the Wildcats in an impressive fashion, draining 52.5% of their field goals and shooting 7-13 from the three-point line. Whitman continued her breakout week and piled 23 points on the unsuspecting Texans from the bench when Daugherty left the game early due to foul trouble. Junior guard Daylani Ballena also rained fire on Tarleton. Ballena sank 9-15 of her field goals and totaled 22 points. A great performance in the paint featured 10 team blocks and five players totaling five rebounds.
The Texans also tallied big numbers from the background, putting up 24 total bench points. Unsurprisingly, Tarleton’s lead scorer Teresa Da Silva topped the team total in points with 23. Da Silva’s scoring was highlighted by an enduring night in which Mayra Caicedo played every minute. She led both teams in rebounds with eight and assists with six. Tarleton capitalized on SUU’s mistakes, stealing the ball 11 times and scoring 23 points off turnovers.
The loss held Tarleton to a one-win WAC record, pushing their losses even higher to 1-16 in the conference and 7-21 overall.
The Thunderbirds’ final week of the regular season will begin at home with a matchup against California Baptist University on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 5:30 p.m. MST. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Kale Nelson
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics