SUU was selected to the WNIT after earning a share of the Big Sky regular season title with a team that has set a school record with 23 victories. The Thunderbirds then took a 71-56 win at Colorado State in the first round on Thursday, to set up a rematch with the Buffaloes.
Southern Utah trailed by just a basket with eight minutes remaining in the early-season meeting with CU, but the Buffs pulled away for a 75-59 win. Colorado was undefeated at the time and ranked No. 12 in the country, before falling back after finishing the regular with a record of 18-14, along with a 6-12 mark in Pac-12 play.
Coverage of the tournament and live video for the game are available online at www.suutbirds.com, with radio broadcast on Power91.
The Buffaloes have three players scoring in double figures, led by Arielle Roberson at 13.6 points a game. The sophomore is also the team’s top-rebounder with 8.3 rpg. Jen Reese averages 12 per game on 48 percent shooting and Brittany Wilson checks in at 10.9 ppg. Linda Lappe is in her third season as the head coach at her alma mater where she holds a record of 82-51. Colorado won each of the two teams‘ previous meetings prior to this year, claiming a 81-38 win over SUU during the 2007-08 season and an 88-36 decision during Coach JR Payne’s first season with the Thunderbirds in 2009.
Roberson put up 18 points to help CU come away with a 75-59 win in the first meeting while Southern Utah’s Desiree Jackson led all scorers with 21.
T-BIRDS TAKE FIRST WIN IN WNIT
Southern Utah (23-9) used defense and rebounding to take a 71-56 win over Colorado State (25-8) Thursday night in the program’s first appearance at the WNIT. The Thunderbirds posted a 45-25 advantage on the glass and held the Rams 16 points below their scoring average for the season as well as six percent below their usual shooting percentage.
The T-Birds went 24-28 at the foul line and outscored CSU in the paint by a count of 30-16. Hailey Mandelko led SUU with 19 points, Maylinn Smith finished with 11 and Desiree Jackson went for 11 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
The Southern Utah offense has proved itself to be one of the most productive in the country as the T-Birds rank 48th in the NCAA with an average of 74.6 ppg and 50th in field-goal percentage with a shooting mark of 43.4 percent. SUU is also 33th in the nation at the foul line, where it shoots 74.5 percent.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE SPELLS TROUBLE
The Thunderbirds are a perfect 12-0 this year when at least one player turns in double-digit totals in both scoring and rebounding. Lori Parkinson has six double-doubles so far while Carli Moreland holds five. The pair both hit the mark in SUU’s win at Texas A&M CC. Marquelle Funk posted 11 points and 12 rebounds against Montana State and Desiree Jackson grabbed 10 boards with 11 points for her first career double-double in the T-Birds’ WNIT win over Colorado State.
Carli Moreland has cracked the SUU record books in two career categories as she ranks fifth all-time in rebounds (756) and fifth in blocked shots (98). She became just the tenth player in program history to score 1,000 career points in her final home game. Senior guard Andrea Jones will look to distance herself as Southern Utah’s best free throw shooter, holding the current career record of 84.6 percent. She is also climbing in assists (307) where she sits at fourth all-time.
Southern Utah equaled its single-season record set in 1988 and matched in 2004 by collecting its 18th win of the year against Montana, then surpassed the mark with a victory over MSU, and now holds a total of 22.
This week’s game will also represent the T-Birds’ first appearance in a national postseason Division I tournament.