“You try to find some bright spots about a game when you don’t feel great about a team coming back on you, but we took care of the ball really well which is something we had struggled with recently and executed some new things down the stretch,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “We have a lot of people who can contribute, whether they start or not I think our team is aggressive off the bench.”
Junior Desiree Jackson hit her first two shots from the field, then addd a pair of free throws for seven quick points to give the Thunderbirds an 11-6 lead five minutes in. A 3-pointer by Hailey Mandelko a few minutes later doubled up the score at 16-8.
The lead grew to double-figures late in the first half after freshman Jessica Richardson put back a shot off an offensive rebound and Maylinn Smith followed with a jumper to make the score 30-18.
Westminster guard Amy Krommenhoek knocked down a three to spark an 8-3 rally that brought the score to 33-26. The Griffins hung around in the closing minutes of the half, but allowed SUU guard Andrea Jones to go coast-to-coast for a layup in the last six seconds to set the count at 41-32 heading into the break.
The visitors scored the first four points of the second period to pull within five, but a trip to the foul line for Jones and another three from Marquelle Funk put SUU back up by ten at 46-36.
The Griffins narrowed the deficit again as Krommenhoek hit another shot from the outside, but back-to-back jumpers for Robbins and Richardson had Southern Utah up by 11 as the score sat at 60-49 with nine minutes remaining.
Westminster battled back from the foul line, hitting eight free throws over the next five minutes, to cut the margin to 62-59. An inside score from Alli Blake then had the visitors within one in the final three minutes.
The two sides traded a pair of shots at the line before Parkinson dropped in a jumper to put SUU back up by three. She then deflected a pass and came up with a steal to give the ball back to the T-Birds with under a minute remaining.
The Griffins were able to work the ball inside for a score in the final seconds, but then had to foul and sent Mandelko to the line with 3.9 seconds left on the clock. She would hit both attempts and the Griffins half court heave at the buzzer came up short setting the final score at 68-65.
Mandelko hit four 3-pointers to lead Southern Utah with 14 points. Parkinson finished with 11 and Funk chipped in another eight. The Thunderbirds shot 47.1 percent overall and connected on 8-17 from the outside. Krommenhoek paced Westminster with 17 points with Alli Winters adding another 16. The Griffins shot 53.8 percent from 3-point territory, but just 36.2 percent overall. SUU posted a 38-31 rebounding advantage, including 14 on the offensive end, and led in second chance points by a count of 16-2.
“We only had four offensive rebounds in the first half, ten in the second half, we talked about that at halftime that we needed more than one or two on the glass, and I think the team did a much better job in the second half,” commented Payne.
The Thunderbirds travel to New York next week to compete at the Turkey Classic hosted by LIU Brooklyn. SUU will take on Georgia Tech on Friday at 2:30 (MT), then play again on Saturday, with the second matchup being determined by Friday’s result. Coverage of Southern Utah basketball is available online at www.suutbirds.com.