On Friday afternoon, the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team took a 64-51 win over the Lopes of Grand Canyon University in the Western Athletic Conference semifinal round. The dominant 13-point victory comes after a one-point comeback win on Wednesday night.
Except for just two minutes in the first quarter, Southern Utah led for the entirety of the game. They entered halftime up by 11 points and built up a lead as large as 20 points in the third quarter. GCU brought their deficit back into single digits in the fourth quarter but could not gather enough momentum for a comeback.
Southern Utah’s Megan Jensen dominated the game, outscoring every player on the court. She matched her career-high 22 points, 16 of them earned in the first half alone. Jensen also chased down eight rebounds, falling just short of a double-double. Cherita Daugherty came close as well, scoring 16 points with eight rebounds after being the hero in the Thunderbirds’ previous win. Nine of her points came from the free throw line. Guided by Lizzy Williamson, SUU played clean defense against GCU. They only committed three fouls in the first and second quarters and allowed the Lopes just six free throw attempts in the game. Williamson contributed three blocks and two steals for the Thunderbirds, along with seven defensive rebounds. As a team, SUU shot 45.1% from the field and 31.3% from three-point range.
Grand Canyon struggled significantly on the offensive side but had two players reach double-digit points. Naudia Evans and Alaina Harper scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, and Evans made the only three successful three-point shots for GCU. Tiarra Brown was also an impact player for the team, putting up eight points and collecting nine rebounds, four of them coming on the offensive side. Defense was GCU’s main strength in the game, as they had 10 steals and forced the Thunderbirds into 20 total turnovers to score 20 points off them. Despite that, they gave up 39 rebounds while only gathering 27 for themselves. Collectively, the Lopes shot 37.3% from the field and 18.8% from beyond the arc.
Southern Utah will face California Baptist University in the final round of the WAC Tournament. The No. 4 Lancers upset top-seed Stephen F. Austin on Friday afternoon, 69-64.
CBU’s top player was Chloe Webb, who scored 17 points. Filipa Barros followed with 13 points and four rebounds. The Lancers struggled with ball handling and gave up 22 turnovers while allowing SFA to score 15 points off of them. Shot accuracy was their saving grace, though, as shown by their 49% field-goal percentage and 39.1% three-point percentage.
Southern Utah and California Baptist met just once in the regular season, and SUU won 83-75.
The WAC championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 11, at 4:30 p.m. MST. It will take place in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and can be streamed on ESPN+ or Thunder 91.1 KSUU-FM.
Story by: Anden Garfield
Photos courtesy of SUU Athletics