“I thought we did a really nice job on both ends of the floor, obviously we did a great job on the rebounding end,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “I was really pleased with our attention to detail, which is something we have been talking about all week, and being disciplined and taking care of our own selves.”
Senior center Carli Moreland scored six of the Thunderbirds first eight points, but Prayer Branhman knocked down a pair of threes to help the Firestorm tie the score up at 8-8 after four minutes of play.
Marquelle Funk then came off the bench for a quick layup and three from the corner to put SUU out in front by five and Moreland went back to work inside for six straight points to spark an 18-0 run that pushed the advantage to 33-13.
Branham broke up the streak with a layup, but SUU added to the margin after a block by Brenna Gates resulted in a fast break score for Marissa Robbins and Desiree Jackson split the defense for a basket and a foul. Ashleigh Munns would knock down a 3-pointer from the corner in the closing minutes of the half and the T-Birds went on to take a 52-21 lead into the break.
Southern Utah outrebounded Arizona Christian by a count of 36-12 over the first 20 minutes for a 19-2 advantage in second chance points. The Thunderbirds shot 42.6 percent in the opening half, including going 4-9 from the 3-point territory, while holding their opponents to just 7-26 shooting.
SUU continued to pull away in the second half, as their record number of rebounds resulted in a total of 37 second chance points. The Thunderbirds also got 69 points from the bench as all 12 players who saw time on the court got into the scoring column. Mandelko led the way with a season-high 20 points while Moreland added a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jackson and Funk chipped in another 13 and 10 respectively.
Southern Utah shot 42 percent from the field and scored 50 points in the paint. The Firestorm were held to 31.5 percent shooting with most of the offense coming from Branham who finished with 20 points. Moreland, Lori Parkinson and Jessica Richardson all turned in double digit rebounding performances during the record night for SUU. The 101-44 victory also marked the team’s third highest scoring total in a game.
“I thought that we executed the game plan well,” commented Payne. “We tried to push in transition and rebounded well which was a big part of our game plan tonight.”
SUU will now prepare to open Big Sky Conference play as the T-Birds are scheduled to visit Northern Colorado this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Game coverage is available online at www.suutbirds.com.