Montana State opened the game with back-to-back threes by Jackie Elliott and Kalli Durham while the Thunderbirds missed their first five shots from the field to trail 6-0 early on. The Bobcats continued their hot shooting from the outside as Ashley Brumwell dropped in another 3-pointer and Margaret Barhoum later added a fourth to push the margin to 14-8. MSU hit each of its first five attempts from the behind the arc to eventually pull ahead, 26-10.
A quick 6-0 run helped to narrow the gap for Southern Utah, and successful trips to the foul line for seniors Carli Moreland and Andrea Jones had the T-Birds back within seven with just under five minutes left in the opening period.
The Thundebirds would cut the difference down to four with a layup by Jones late in the half, but nine-straight free throws for MSU in the final two minutes had the home team back up by eight with the score at 46-38 at halftime.
Montana State protected its lead throughout the first eight minutes out of the break until seven straight points by the T-Birds brought SUU back within three. Jones and Marquelle Funk dropped in back-to-back layups before Ashleigh Munns drained a three to set the count at 66-63 halfway through the period.
Southern Utah continued to chip away until a pair of free throws by Lori Parkinson made it a one-point game with less than four minutes remaining. A basket from Mandelko on the next possession would give SUU its first lead of the night at 75-74.
MSU forward Jasime Hommes tied the score at 75-75 with a foul shot, but Mandeko dropped in two more threes in the closing moments and senior Maylinn Smith added four free throws in the final seconds to seal the 87-81 win for Southern Utah.
After hitting seven threes in the first 20 minutes, the Montana State offense was held just 1-5 shooting from the outside in the second half while the Thunderbirds closed out the game hitting four of their last nine attemptes from beyond the arc. SUU went 41.3 percent from the field overall, just behind the Bobcats’ shooting mark of 41.9 percent. Southern Utah posted a 47-35 rebounding advantage and finished 31-37 at the foul line.
Mandelko’s 22 points marked the second-highest total by a Thunderbird this season. Moreland recorded her team-leading fifth double-double with 19 points and a season-high 15 rebounds and Jones turned in 15 points for her best scoring performance of the year so far. Hommes scored a career-high 24 points for the Bobcats and Jackie Elliot put up 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Southern Utah finishes out the week with another road contest this Saturday at the University of Montana. Tip-off between the Thunderbirds and Grizzlies is set for 2:00 p.m. with game coverage available online at www.suutbirds.com.