Cherita Daughtery returns for Southern Utah after averaging double figures a season ago. Courtesy SUU Athletics

Southern Utah Thunderbirds Women’s Basketball 2022-23 Season Preview

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are one of two new teams in the Western Athletic Conference. And the T-Bird women’s basketball program is going to add a lot of value in its first season in the WAC. Head coach Tracy Sanders took a 3-win squad in 2018-19 to 18 wins the following season. And in 2021-22, Sanders led the Thunderbirds to the second most conference victories in SUU program history.

Now, with new challenges, unknown travel destinations, and some new faces, Sanders and the Thunderbirds look forward to the 2022-23 season.

Head Coach:

Tracy Sanders (5th Season)

At Southern Utah:

55-57, 35-36 Big Sky

Career Record:

55-57

2021-22 Records:

18-12 overall, 14-6 Big Sky (T-2)

Postseason:

Lost to Idaho in Big Sky Quarterterfinals

Key Departures:

Darri Dotson – Graduated

Newcomers:

Tomekia Whitman 5-10, Sr., G, Transfer (Idaho State)

Megan Jensen 6-3, Sr., C, Transfer (Utah Valley)

Key Returners:

Cherita Daugherty 5-10, Gr., G

Lizzy Williamson 6-5, R-Jr., C

Projected Starting 5:

  1. Cherita Daugherty
  2. Tomekia Whitman
  3. Daylani Ballena
  4. Lizzie Williamson
  5. Megan Jensen

This will likely be as experienced and skilled a starting 5 as you’ll find in the conference. Daugherty, Ballena, and Williamson made a combined 78 starts in an SUU uniform a season ago while Jensen and Whitman combined for 38 starts at their respective institutions. Daugherty and Ballena were not the greatest 3-point shooters a season ago and need to get better there for the T-Birds to be a title contender this season. Whitman was a 35 percent 3-point shooter in Pocatello and was third on the team in assists.

Williamson and Jensen should provide a difficult 1-2 punch down low for teams to contend with. Jensen, according to Sanders, has developed some range out to 3-point land and can also defend out on the perimeter.

Lizzy Williamson gives Southern Utah a size advantage. Courtesy SUU Athletics.

Outlook:

Leading scorer Darri Dotson graduates and departs the T-Birds. But 5th year head coach Tracy Sanders and her team should still be competitive in the conference. The way-too-early rankings had the T-Birds finishing 10th- 11th. But that was based on a very early roster posted online. Knowing what we know now with an official roster, this is a group that should finish in the top half of the conference.

The T-Birds are loaded with depth in the post starting with Lizzy Williamson who was the team’s 4th leading scorer a year ago at just under 10 points with 8 rebounds and an impressive 50 blocks. They also pick up Megan Jensen from Utah Valley through the transfer portal.

Sanders said about the addition of Jensen and her team’s post depth on the Straight Outta WAC Podcast

“I’m so excited to get Megan,” Sanders said on the Straight Outta WAC Podcast. “She’s so skilled, a hard worker, and a great teammate. She can shoot the three and defend out there and fills a void for us with Darri Dotson’s graduation. It’s been really fun to watch them get after it in practice against each other and I believe they’ll prove to be a tough matchup for our opponents when we open play.”

Cherita Daugherty is back for her grad year and is the team’s leading returning scorer at 10.6 points per game. SUU also gets Idaho State transfer Tomekia Whitman via the portal who averaged 11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Daughtery led the Bengals in all of those categories and was second in assists at 2.4 per game.

Scheduling Tidbits:

I didn’t think anyone could match the Strength of Schedule that UTA has revealed in their non-conference but Sanders and staff might’ve done it.

The T-Birds will definitely be tested out of the gate and rack up those frequent flier miles in what according to Sanders is the toughest schedule she’s assembled since arriving in Cedar City.

Last Year:

The T-Birds were solid when it came to the statistics last year. Defensively, they held teams to 29.3 percent from 3-point range and 39.4 percent in total field goal percentage. All this while allowing a respectable 65.8 points per game.

On the offensive end the Thunderbirds were fourth in total field goal percentage at 41.8 percent and fifth in 3-point percentage at 32 percent. SUU averaged 70.6 points, good enough for second in the Big Sky. These are all solid marks and if they translate to a new conference, should mean SUU should be competitive right out of the gates.

 

 

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