SUU Lady T-Birds open conference play with win over Portland State

Portland State at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 30, 2019 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team went on a 13-0 run late in the game to defeat Portland State 71-58 Monday night.

The Lady T-Birds led their Big Sky Conference rivals for much of the game, posting a 35-25 halftime lead and maintaining a 10-point margin heading into the fourth quarter.

However, the Vikings went on an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter to trim SUU’s lead to three points, 58-55, with just under five minutes remaining.

Following an SUU timeout, guard Rebecca Cardenas got the T-Birds back on track with a left-side jumper to push the lead back to five points. A minute or so later, fellow guard Harley Hansen converted a layup from a long pass after a Portland State turnover, making it 62-55 for SUU.

Cardenas then made two more field goals on SUU’s next two possessions, with Hansen then adding yet another layup off a steal to pad the T-Birds’ lead to 68-55 with 1:08 left.

With 30 seconds left in the game, SUU’s Shalyn Fano drained her third 3-pointer to cap off the scoring for the T-Birds. 

SUU’s Rebecca Cardenas passes the ball, Portland State at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, Dec. 30, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Hansen led SUU with 21 points, while Cardenas finished with 20 and Fano added 16.

Portland State’s end-of-game scoring drought lasted almost a full five minutes, ending only when reserve player Syd Schultz converted a three-point play with 10 seconds remaining to account for the final margin.

Portland State guard Desirae Hansen led the Vikings with 23 points, with fellow guard Kylie Jimenez adding 14.

“Basketball is a game of runs, and coach is always telling us to be ready for it,” Cardenas told reporters after the game. “I think we did a good job of responding.”

She added that the team also executed well on their defensive game plan.

“We know they’re a zone team, so if we get stops, they can’t set up,” she said, “and that’s when we’re best, is in transition.”

SUU head coach Tracy Sanders also lauded the team’s defensive efforts, “especially in the first half.”

“They had some guards that hit some big shots, but I think overall we did a great job,” Sanders said, adding that each possession is important as well. “I think we’re getting to that point where we understand that we’ve got to take care of the ball. We have to execute offensively.”

Sanders said they made some “huge” adjustments, but there’s still room for improvement.

“I thought we got a little stagnant on offense,” she said. “We’ve struggled a little bit against the zone, and we’ve really put a lot of time in the last couple weeks working on zone. I think it’s something we need to continue to improve on.”

SUU improved to 7-3 overall and 1-0 in Big Sky play with the win in their first conference game of the season. Portland State fell to 6-6 overall with the loss, 0-2 vs. Big Sky opponents.

Next up for the Lady Thunderbirds is a road trip to Montana for two more conference games later this week, when they’ll face Montana at 7 p.m. Thursday and Montana State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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