The path to defending their conference championship begins on Wednesday, Nov. 8, for the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team as they face the Eastern Washington University Eagles in the home opener. Later in the week, on Friday, Nov. 10, the Thunderbirds will take on the Western Kentucky University Toppers.
Eastern Washington comes into this matchup predicted by the Big Sky coaches to win their conference. The Eagles are led by two preseason all-conference team members in graduate student Jamie Loera and junior Jaydia Martin. Loera is coming off a season where she averaged 11.3 points and five assists per game, while Martin averaged 16.1 points per game.
Eastern Washington is led by third-year head coach Joddie Gleason, who has guided her team to consecutive winning seasons to start her tenure.
The Toppers are coming off a 70-64 win against Mercer University to open their season. In the preseason coaches poll, Western Kentucky was tabbed to finish second within Conference USA. Leading the charge for the Toppers are sophomore Acacia Hayes and junior Alexis Mead, who averaged 11.2 and 8.2 points per game, respectively.
The Thunderbirds are looking to build off winning both the Western Athletic Conference regular season and postseason titles. Southern Utah returns a number of key contributors from last year’s team, headlined by reigning WAC Sixth Woman of the Year and graduate student Tomekia Whitman, who held averages of 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds to earn her preseason all-conference honors. Whitman is aided by veteran pieces in graduate student Megan Smith and senior Daylani Ballena, who averaged 11.3 and 11.1 points apiece.
Where to watch
Both games will be played in the America First Event Center with both tipping off at 6:30 p.m. Students gain free entrance with valid ID. The games can also be streamed on ESPN+.
Author: Aidan Mortensen
Photographer: Anden Garfield
Editor: Anden Garfield