“Just details, we have to get better at the details because that is where we are losing games,” stated SUU head coach JR Payne. “We didn’t shoot that well, but if you do what you are supposed to do and you are in the right place than you give yourself a much better chance.”
The Thunderbirds hit just two of their first 15 shots from the field to fall behind 11-5 early on. Jackson then provided five quick points during a 9-3 SUU run that brought the score even at 14-14 halfway through the opening period.
Andrea Jones sank a 3-pointer to put Southern Utah in front 17-16, but the Bengals came back to take a 24-19 lead on back-to-back lay-ins from forward Jessica Tingey. ISU then added two more scores by Katrina Bacovcin and Sheryl Bitter to push the margin to 31-22. The Thunderbirds got a step-back jumper from Jones for the final basket of the half to make the count 31-24 at the break.
Southern Utah’s 25.0 percent shooting percentage and 24 total points over the first 20 minutes marked the team’s lowest output for a half this season. The Bengals shot 48.3 percent from the field to start the game and held a 26-18 advantage on the glass.
“I think we would have been up by a pretty good amount in the first half if we would have made our layups and free throws,” commented Payne. “The whole thing would have felt different if we would have been able to score the ball and make our free throws.”
Idaho State dropped in two quick threes from Rebecca Schrimpsher and Lindsey Reed to add to its lead early in the second half and Alissa Willard followed with a jumper to make the score 40-30.
Hailey Mandelko brought the Thunderbirds back within five with a couple of trips to the foul line, but Reed added another triple and ISU extended the difference to 56-38 with under eight minutes to play.
Mandelko knocked down a corner three to spark a 13-2 run that cut the deficit to seven. Jackson put up eight points during the rally, including a layup that brought the score to 58-51 with 5:26 left on the clock.
Lori Parkinson scored inside after another corner shot from Mandelko to make it a four-point game as SUU trailed 60-56 at the three-minute mark. The two sides traded free throws, and the lead remained at four entering the final sixty seconds until Bacovcin scored in transition to put ISU up 66-60.
Jackson added another score in the final seconds, but the Bengals made enough free throws to come out on top, 69-65.
Idaho State shot 46.2 percent from the field while SUU finished with a mark of 28.6 percent. The visitors also held a 48-41 rebounding advantage and scored two more points in the paint than the Thunderbirds. Southern Utah totaled 20 points of off ISU turnovers and racked up 39 bench points.
Jackson went 7-14 from the floor and 6-6 at the foul line. Mandelko put up another 14 points for the T-Birds and Parkinson recorded 11 points to go along with seven steals. Senior Marissa Robbins grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Tingey led Idaho State with 19 points and nine rebounds.
“In a game where we were trying to be more aggressive offensively, Desiree is one player that has the skill set to penetrate and be more aggressive. I thought she did a good job at that and she is a great free throw shooter,” explained Payne. “And defensively I thought she was really good.”
The Thunderbirds have some time to prepare for their next Big Sky contests before Portland State and Eastern Washington visit the Centrum Arena next week. The Vikings will be in town on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. followed by a matchup with the Eagles on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Coverage of Southern Utah basketball is available online at www.suutbirds.com.