When you look at the current WAC Standings for Women’s Basketball, you’ll notice the Southern Utah Thunderbirds remain the only one undefeated in WAC play.
But, not far down the ladder in third, is a GCU squad hungry for first place. These two extremely talented teams will be going head to head for the first time in GCU Arena Wednesday in what will be one of the biggest games of the year.
Here’s what you need to know.
Records Aren’t Everything
When you look at overall records alone, you would assume GCU is clearly the better team. At 14-5, the Lopes are having one of their best seasons in program history.
SUU, on the other hand, had a rocky start. But don’t let that fool you. The Thunderbirds had a loaded preseason schedule that included Oregon, Gonzaga, and Utah. Utah is ranked 9th, Gonzaga 17th and Oregon is receiving votes in the recent AP poll.
Despite going 4-7, the Thunderbirds have cruised through the WAC so far to improve their record to 10-7 overall.
Considering this is their first year in the WAC, many are drawing comparisons to the season SFA had last year in their first season in the conference.
If history repeats itself, these wins could easily pile up and carry the Thunderbirds to a WAC championship. GCU, of course, is looking to stop this run in its tracks.
Battle of the Bigs
The WAC is loaded with great players, especially in the post. Some of the best forwards in the conference can be found in Cedar City and Phoenix. These will be some of the biggest match-ups to follow. Although both teams have exceptional talent at the 4 and 5 spots, here are two to keep an eye on.
Cherita Daugherty is having herself quite the season. Averaging 15.1 points per game, Daugherty sits at fifth in the conference in that stat and leads the Thunderbirds. She also averages 5.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.1 steals. Her best game this season was arguably her 28-5-6 performance against Sam Houston. Daugherty shot 46 percent from the field and went a ridiculous 16-16 from the free-throw line. She’s definitely a contender for WAC Player of the Year if she continues to have games like that one.
For GCU, Olivia Lane has been playing exceptionally well since starting the season late due to injury. In 12 games, Lane is averaging 10.3 points, tied with Tiarra Brown for second on the Lopes in scoring. She’s also averaging 5.2 rebounds.
Recently in GCU’s win over NMSU, Lane broke the GCU D1 era record for rebounds in a single game with 19. She also scored 16 points in that game, her second most this season. The transfer from North Dakota is certainly one of the best newcomers in the conference.
— SUU Women’s Basketball (@SUUWBasketball) January 20, 2023
What Would a Win Means for Each Team?
Both teams are going into this one with a chip on their shoulder.
On one hand, GCU is considered the underdog by many thanks to SUU’s undefeated WAC record.
To be the ones to take down the top dogs would be huge for the Lopes. Although they wouldn’t move in the standings, their resume seeding would most likely get a huge boost. And considering their most recent game was a loss at CBU, GCU could really use a win to get back on track.
Going into the season, the coaches’ poll had the Thunderbirds at 6th and the media had them at 8th in the preseason polls.
Obviously, no one expected the Thunderbirds to have this kind of start to WAC play.
As the Thunderbirds look to go 7-0, they want to continue their tear through the WAC and show everyone they’re a contender. So far they’re doing just that, and a win at GCU would further put them in the conversation.
Tip is set for 6 p.m. MT on Wednesday and can be seen on ESPN+.