Women’s basketball clinches WAC regular season title 

The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team has successfully claimed the Western Athletic Conference regular season title, their first conference title in nine years. The Thunderbirds accomplished the goal with wins over California Baptist University and Grand Canyon University and finished undefeated at home in conference play. 

Versus California Baptist

The first quarter was a heated affair with both teams trading baskets from the start. Redshirt junior Lizzy Williamson made a mid-range jumper that granted the Thunderbirds a 10-8 lead. She earned another double-double, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks, and she ended the season second all-time in single-season blocks. 

Junior Dorcas Wu responded and hit a crucial three-point shot, giving CBU the lead. Toward the later stages of the quarter, the Thunderbirds started to pull away after two made free throws from senior Tomekia Whitman. Whitman finished with a new season high of 25 points. Southern Utah led 22-18 at the end of the first quarter. 

The second quarter was a defensive showcase for Southern Utah, as they held the Lancers to 13 points and 31% shooting from the field. SUU advanced their margin, and, after a made layup from senior Megan Jensen, the Thunderbirds led 42-31 at halftime. 

Southern Utah controlled the momentum in the third quarter and continued to build the lead. Junior Daylani Ballena hit two free throws to give SUU a 60-42 lead. Ballena scored nine points and was 4-4 from the free throw line. 

Going into the final quarter, the game felt at ease with the Thunderbirds boasting a 62-47 lead, but the Lancers had other plans. CBU started the final quarter on a 10-4 run and broke the Thunderbirds’ double-digit lead. The Lancers kept the momentum in their direction thanks to a layup from graduate guard Sila Finau, cutting the lead to six. 

Southern Utah answered with two crucial buckets from Whitman and Jensen, pushing their lead back to ten with five minutes left. The fourth quarter became a repeat of the first quarter, with both teams trading baskets. At only two minutes left in regulation, junior Chloe Webb hit a three-point shot to drop the lead to four. CBU trailed 72-68. The last two minutes of the game came down to free throws and layups. The Thunderbirds walked away victorious with an 83-75 win. 

Versus Grand Canyon 

The first quarter was a back-and-forth battle with both teams trading momentum. After a made three-pointer from Ballena, the Thunderbirds started to pull away with a 10-6 lead. She finished with 18 points and was 8-10 from the free throw line. GCU responded and went on a 4-0 run, making it 10-10. Southern Utah outlasted the Lopes for the rest of the first quarter, leading 17-14. 

Grand Canyon switched to a defensive game plan for the second and third quarters. The Lopes held SUU to 23.1% shooting in the two quarters and contained the Thunderbirds to 21 points, scoring 35 points in those quarters. Grand Canyon held a 49-39 lead going into the final quarter. 

The Thunderbirds are known to perform the brightest in the fourth quarter, and this game was no exception. Southern Utah cut GCU’s lead to single digits right away after a layup from Williamson, who led the team with 13 rebounds. 

SUU continued to cut the lead with graduate guard Cherita Daugherty and Whitman leading the charge. Daugherty evened the score, making two free throws at the 5:13 mark. While the lead changed several times in the later stages of the quarter, SUU started to gain control with under two minutes left and secured a 71-63 win. 

Daugherty scored eight out of her 20 points and Whitman scored ten out of her 16 points in the final quarter. To complete the comeback, SUU outscored Grand Canyon 32-14, shot 61.5% from the field and made 15-16 free throws.

Next up 

Southern Utah will head down to Las Vegas for the WAC Tournament. The Thunderbirds await their final seeding but have clinched a first round bye. The tournament will be held at the Michelob ULTRA Arena on March 6 and the Orleans Arena on March 8, 10-11. 


Article by: Anthony Colasuono 


Photos courtesy of SUU Athletics