CEDAR CITY –– In their home opener Wednesday afternoon, the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team picked up their first win of the season, beating the William Jessup Warriors, 74-46.
“They are a solid team and we knew they weren’t just going to roll over. They were excited to come in and play and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy by any means,” SUU head coach Tracy Sanders said, adding that the Thunderbird defense wasn’t great to start the game.
“That was something we talked about – sticking to our fundamentals on defense and playing the way we play and not worrying about how they play. It was fun to see some different lineups. We have some great lineups and now it is all about figuring out who works best with who and how we can be the most productive.”
Liz Graves was the leading scorer in the contest with 18 points, on 8-for-11 field goal shooting. Cherita Daugherty put up her first double-double as a Thunderbird with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Madelyn Eaton was the third T-Bird in double digits with 14 points. Darri Frandsen led the team in rebounding with 12.
The Thunderbirds shot 50 percent from the floor in the first quarter, but it was still a close contest as the Warriors also had their best quarter of the game in the first. There were five lead changes in the first 10 minutes as the teams went back-and-forth, but back-to-back buckets from Rebecca Black and Eaton put SUU up 20-17 heading in the second quarter.
There were four more lead changes to open the second quarter as the Warriors kept it tight. However, a three-pointer from Samantha Johnston with 3:15 to go in the half would put the T-Birds up 28-26 and launch a 23-0 run that lasted well into the third quarter.
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During that huge run, the Thunderbirds shot 7-for-12 from the field and 6-for-9 from the free throw line. They also held the Warriors to 0-for-12 from the field and forced four turnovers. By the time William Jessup made their next basket, the T-Birds had built a 19-point lead.
SUU continued to build on that lead, going up by as much as 27 at one point and taking a 59-34 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Thunderbirds continued to keep their distance, never leading by less than 19 in the fourth quarter. They closed the game out on a 6-0 run to take the 74-46 victory.
“This group has stayed so positive as we have dealt with quarantines and positive tests, which has been awesome to see. It is just the nature of the game right now. It is going to take a little bit of time to create those habits,” Sanders said. “We are so excited to be able to play and if we get to practice tomorrow, we need to be happy about that.”
Southern Utah (now 1-1 overall, 0-0 in conference play) will now turn their attention to Saturday when they host Grand Canyon University at noon at the America First Event Center. The game will be live on PlutoTV channel 1055 and on Thunder 91.1 FM.
Written by KYLE BIRNBRAUER, SUU Athletics.
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