Nothing has come easy for the Southern Utah women’s basketball team in their inaugural season of Western Athletic Conference play.
In 16 games prior to Tuesday night’s tilt against CBU (who is in a fight to stay out of Monday’s opening round), the Thunderbirds have had a margin of victory of 20 or more just once. Every other game has been a battle to the horn and this game was no exception.
Tuesday night at the America First Event Center was another one of those type of games for Southern Utah. Per the usual throughout league play, Southern Utah got the job done.
“I’m just really excited for these girls,” SUU head coach Tracy Sanders said. “They’ve worked really hard this season. It’s fun to be at home and have a game like this. I thought we played really well.”
It is the first regular season championship for the Southern Utah women’s basketball team in nine years. A win in the regular season finale on Thursday or an SFA loss would clinch the title outright for the T-Birds.
Megan Jensen and Lizzie Williamson were catalysts in Southern Utah jumping out to an early lead. Williamson and Jensen combined to score Southern Utah’s first 15 points. Williamson had six points and Jensen had nine points.
However, CBU came out firing, as well. The Lancers hit four 3-pointers in the first seven minutes. Grace Schmidt’s layup with 3:13 left in the first gave the Lancers a 16-15 lead.
The lead did not last long. On the following possession Tomekia Whitman hit a jumper to give Southern Utah the lead right back. Samantha Johnston’s 3-pointer with a minute left in the quarter gave Southern Utah a 22-18 lead after one.
Johnston’s 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the half gave the T-Birds their largest lead at 33-23. Tomekia Whitman then scored five straight points to push the lead to 12 with 2:06 left in the half.
Southern Utah took a 42-31 lead into the locker room.
Coming out of the half, Southern Utah established themselves in the paint behind Lizzie Williamson, Megan Jensen and Cherita Daugherty. Lizzy Williamson’s bucket made it 51-36 with just under five minutes left in the third quarter.
Sila Finau’s layup with 34 seconds left cut the Lancers deficit to 15 after 30 minutes.
One thing that you can’t do defensively unless you score is set your press.
That’s what CBU turned to in the fourth quarter as the Lancers made their run. A Kinsley Barrington layup off Chloe Webb’s assist chopped the deficit in half with 7:40 left.
Then, Trinity San Antonio converted a 3-point play and Chloe Webb connected on a 3-pointer, cutting the deficit to four at 72-68 with 2:12 remaining.
“Obviously, there was a little stretch there at the end where they made a big run,” Sanders said. “But, we weathered the storm and they stuck together. And, I thought we were a great team tonight.”
That would be as close as the Lancers got as Southern Utah buckled down and made free throws to preserve the win.
— SUU Women’s Basketball (@SUUWBasketball) March 1, 2023
Tomekia Whitman had 25 points and nine rebounds to lead the Southern Utah charge. Megan Jensen chipped in 17 points with Lizzie Williamson adding 14 more along with 13 rebounds, six blocks, and five assists.
For CBU, the Lancers got 17 points from San Antonio. Joining her in double figure scoring were Chloe Webb and Sila Finau with 12 points each and Kinsley Barrington with 11 points in her return to Cedar City.
Southern Utah stays in Cedar City to finish the regular season on Thursday against GCU.
Meanwhile, CBU returns home and gets ready for UTRGV.