Daylani Ballena and Southern Utah remained unbeaten in WAC play with a dominant road win at UTRGV. Courtesy SUU Athletics.

SUU Hoops: Men Split, Women Remain Unbeaten in WAC Play

Week six of Western Athletic Conference play was a mixed bag of results for the SUU men’s and women’s basketball teams.   

The SUU men split a weekend road trip with some dramatic flare. Meanwhile, the SUU women just continue to win and remain unbeaten in WAC play heading into a makeup game at UT Arlington on Monday afternoon. 

MBB: Southern Utah 72, Cal Baptist 71

On Wednesday, the Thunderbirds and Lancers fought back and forth with runs by each team. The Lancers started the game on a 10-6 run led by reigning WAC Player of the Week Taran Armstrong. Armstrong did not miss a shot in the first half. In fact, Armstrong’s first missed field goal came with 9:10 left in the second half. Armstrong finished the game 10-12 from the field, 2-3 from beyond the arc. However, Armstrong’s 25 points were two shy of what was needed to win the ball game. Armstrong’s shot at the buzzer to win the ball game came up just short.

Aside from Armstrong, the Lancers struggled to score in abundance and efficiently. Graduate forward Riley Battin had 13 points but went an inefficient 5-14 from the field. Hunter Goodrick was able to shoot 5-6 from the field and log 11 points for head coach Rick Croy.    

Head coach Todd Simon had all five starters in double figures. Combined, they scored a total of 58 of Southern Utah’s 72 points. Sophomore guard Drake Allen led SUU with 15 points while shooting 50 percent from the field on the night. Allen led the Thunderbirds offense in the first half, scoring 13 of his 15 points prior to halftime.  

SUU’s Tevian Jones did not have a particularly flashy game. However, Jones did end with 12 points. His dunk midway through the second half sparked the SUU offense. Jones’ eight rebounds and three assists helped his teammates play off of him. And in the waning minutes, he made the necessary shots to close out the Lancers. 

Senior guard Harrison Butler was 4-14 from the field. Butler’s eight rebounds tied Jones for the team-high and four assists tied Allen for the team high as well. Jason Spurgin had 11 points. The sophomore center from Australia also hauled in five rebounds. Fifth-year forward Maizen Fausett and Butler scored 10 points apiece, which rounded up points scored by starters for Simon. 

The victory moves SUU to 16-7 on the season and 8-2 in WAC play. As for Cal Baptist, they needed a win as they try to secure a spot in the WAC tournament next month. The Lancers are now 13-10 on the year and 5-5 in conference play.

MBB: Southern Utah 79, Utah Tech 86 

The Trailblazers came out of the gate hot and took an earlier 12-5 lead Saturday night at Burns Arena. But the Thunderbirds responded quickly to make it 12-10.

Again, Utah Tech went on 14-3 run to push the lead to 11. Drake Allen’s 3-pointer ended the run. But the damage was done.

Despite both teams trading baskets, the Trailblazers were able to sustain a sizable lead. Utah Tech went on another run and found themselves up 41-19 with four minutes left in the first half. Southern Utah was able to cut the 21-point lead to 17, as the half ended with the Trailblazers leading 47-30. 

In the first half, Utah Tech shot 66 percent from the field and 3-point land. Contested or not, every shot seemed to be nothing but net. Senior guard Cameron Gooden was a big piece to Tech’s first half success. Gooden ended with a game-high 26 points, six assists and four rebounds. Tanner Christensen played great in the paint. The sophomore center finished the game with 21 points, and tied for a team-high seven rebounds with senior forward Jacob Nicolds. 

Southern Utah was in need of a massive second half to even have a chance to win the game. The Thunderbirds went on a 19-7 run on the back of graduate guard Cameron Healy, who was 4-4 from downtown in the first six minutes of the second half and scored 12 of SUU’s 19 points in that run.

Utah Tech responded and jumped out to a double digit lead again. Every time the Thunderbirds were within five to six points, the Trailblazers had an answer. Turnovers hurt Southern Utah down the stretch and they inevitably lost the game, 86-79, to Utah Tech. SUU was led by Fausett’s 21 points and four rebounds. Allen went a perfect 5-5 on the night and finished the game with 13 points. He also ended the night on the bench, fouling out in the waning minutes. 

This opens the race to the top back up. Losses from SUU, Seattle U and Sam Houston should make things interesting. As for Utah Tech, they are able to keep WAC tournament hopes alive and now hold a 11-13 overall record and 3-8 record in WAC play.

WBB: SUU 84, UTRGV 55 

Southern Utah came out with a point to prove after their narrow victory over Tarleton last Saturday in Cedar City.  At UTRGV Fieldhouse, that is what the T-Birds did on Saturday.

In the first half, the Thunderbirds shot 65 percent from the field as a team and went into the locker room with a 41-32 lead over the Vaqueros.

Senior guard Tomekia Whitman was perfect from the field in the first half and had 13 points entering the break. Whitman ended the game with 15 points, a game-high six rebounds and two assists.

For the game, senior center Megan Jensen went 8-10 and finished with a game-high 21 points. Jensen and junior center Lizzy Williamson combined for five blocks and three steals on the defensive end.

Senior guard Daylani Ballena initiated the offense for SUU and ended the game with seven assists. 

The Thunderbirds ended the half on a run and added to it in the third quarter. With 3:30 left in the third, Southern Utah went on a 29-2 run to push the lead to 56-34.

Samantha Johnston was lights out from beyond the arc. Johnston shot 67 percent from 3-point territory and ended with 14 points. The senior guard also added four rebounds and assists.

It was hard for the Vaqueros to respond with a run like that of their own. Head coach Lane Lord’s team tried to fight their way back in. Junior guard Halie Jones had 16 points and shot 6-11 from the field. She also added two steals and four rebounds. Freshman forward Charlotte went 5-11 from the field, and ended with 14 points, two steals and three rebounds.

However, the Thunderbirds cruised to a 84-55 victory to remain unbeaten in WAC play.

SUU continues to push for the No. 1 seed, which is currently held by Stephen F. Austin. SFA is over two points ahead of Southern Utah in the resume seeding system points and will face SUU at home Saturday, Feb. 18.    

About the author

Chevy Blackburn

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