STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Southern Utah University men’s basketball claimed its second conference victory of the season, defeating the second-ranked Tarleton State Texans 73-70 in Texas on Thursday. The Thunderbirds improved to 2-6 and conference play and 7-12 on the season.

Southern Utah University men’s basketball defeated second-ranked Tarleton State Texans 73-70 in Stephenville, Texas, Jan. 25, 2024 | Photo courtesy SUU Athletics, St. George News

“This was a big one,” Thunderbird coach Rob Jeter said. “We played some unbelievable defense in the first half, holding them to 27 points, and got stops when we needed to down the stretch.”

The Thunderbirds led by as many as 12 in the second half, but the Texans wouldn’t go away without a fight, cutting the lead to one point three different times in the final six minutes.

Southern Utah never gave up the lead, though. And two clutch free throws by Zion Young with 10 seconds remaining pushed the lead to 73-70. The Texans missed a last second three point attempt.

Jamari Sibley scored a career-high 21 points on 8-12 from the field and 3-3 from deep. He also had two rebounds and two steals.

Dominique Ford continued to play like a first-team all-conference caliber player, scoring a game-high 23 points on 6-10 from the field, which included going 10-14 from the charity stripe. He pulled down four rebounds and had a team-high three steals. 

Former Parowan High School star Brock Felder started for the first time in his young college career, scoring eight points with two rebounds and two blocked shots.

The Thunderbirds shot 51% from the field and 33% from three. SUU held the Texans to 42% from the field and just 15% from three. 

“We battled out there,” Jeter said. “I can see it out on the floor that our guys are learning from many of our close losses. Making smarter plays in the clutch minutes and doing what needs to be done defensively to get league wins.”

Up Next:

The Thunderbirds travel next to Abilene, Texas, to battle the Wildcats of Abilene Christian on Saturday, Jan 27. The game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. tipoff. Changes may occur due to flooding in ACU’s facility, SUU staff noted in a media release.

Thunderbird women

The Southern Utah University women’s basketball team fell to Tarleton State 71-60 in Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2024 | Photo courtesy SUU Athletics, St. George News

Back in Utah, the Southern Utah University women’s basketball team fell to Tarleton State 71-60 on Thursday in Cedar City. The Thunderbirds move to 4-13 overall and 2-6 in Western Athletic Conference play.

“We just have to stay the course and continue to want to get better,” Thunderbird coach Tracy Mason said. “We have to play as a team on the defensive end and be on the same page.”

The Thunderbirds relied on a balanced attack to begin the game, as three T-Birds scored early on to give SUU a 6-2 lead with 6:55 left in the first quarter. The Texans put together a 15-10 run to take a one point advantage, 17-16. Daylani Ballena went on a personal 5-0 spurt to give Southern Utah a 21-17 lead heading into the second quarter.

Ballena and Shiho Isono each connected on a field goal early in the second frame to push the Thunderbirds in front 26-19. However, the Texans would close the quarter on a 18-5 push to take a 37-31 lead at the break.

Ashley Banks poured in seven of the T-Birds 12 points in the third period to fuel the team’s offense. Tarleton State held a 60-43 advantage at the end of the third quarter.

Ballena and Ava Uhrich combined for a 7-0 run to start the final frame, cutting the Texans lead to 60-50 with 7:38 remaining in the game. That was the closest the Thunderbirds would get, as Tarleton State would go on to claim a 71-60 victory.

Daylani Ballena led the Thunderbirds’ attack with 17 points and three assists. Ava Uhrich recorded her fifth double-double of the season and fourth in WAC play with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Ashley Banks scored a season-high 13 points to go along with four rebounds.

Up Next:

Southern Utah will host Abilene Christian on Saturday, Jan. 27 at the America First Event Center. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

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