CEDAR CITY — Senior forward Challis Pascucci scored a career-high with 28 points for the second straight game to lead Southern Utah University to its third straight victory, beating Santa Clara University 80-67 in the Centrum Arena on Monday afternoon.
The Thunderbirds (5-5) also got a 21-point performance from senior guard Caitlyn Sears and an 11-point effort by freshman guard Desiree Jackson. Pascucci finished with a season-best 14 rebounds to record her third double-double of the season and 20th of her career, while freshman Carli Moreland came off the bench to score eight points and grab 10 rebounds, both career-bests for SUU.
Senior point guard Kaila Goff added seven points and seven assists to notch her second consecutive seven-assist effort.
Southern Utah posted its third straight win for the first time since the 2006-07 team won four straight games. The Thunderbirds had a 45 percent shooting effort, earned a 52-44 rebound advantage and held Santa Clara (0-8) to 35 percent shooting.
"I was very happy with the way we responded after a tough back-and-forth opening few minutes. We continue to be lead by our seniors in Challis, Caitlyn and Tiny (Goff) who turned in another outstanding performance as a group," stated head coach JR Payne, who spent a season as an assistant coach at Santa Clara prior coming to SUU.
"Challis and Cait have really emerged as a great inside-outside combo, while Tiny has ran the point very well these past couple weeks. Today was a good win against a good, tough Santa Clara team."
Pascucci hit nine field goals and went 10-for-11 from the free throw line, and she had 22 points and nine rebounds in the first half.
Pascucci's big game moved her just 32 points away from reaching the 1,000 career-point mark. Sears' third 20-plus scoring effort of the season has put her 97 points away from also reaching the milestone.
Santa Clara, out of the West Coast Conference, was led by Kathy Willinsky with 18 points.
"We did a great job of getting the ball down low to Challis and we also received great rebounding efforts from a number of young players," Payne said. "Carli had a great game off the bench and we also got good efforts from Angel (Dorn) and Chanel (Thorley), who brought good energy to the floor.
"I like the direction we are going right now," added Payne. "We have a number of players contributing and will need that the rest of the season."
Southern Utah continues its homestand with a matchup against Oregon State University at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Centrum Arena.