CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah got 21 points from freshman point guard Hailey Mandelko against Summit League-leading South Dakota State on Monday night, but fell by a final count of 66-50 after allowing the Jackrabbits to score 30 points off of turnovers.
"This team is number one in our league for a reason. They are a very talented veteran group," said SUU head coach JR Payne. "But I feel like we played really well and as we continue to get better the winning will come."?
The Jackrabbits started the game with 11 straight points while the Thunderbirds turned the ball over in each of their first six possessions. SDSU was able to turn those miscues into easy baskets to go up 11-0 after just four minutes of play. SUU halted the run after Mandelko pushed the ball up the court in transition and was fouled on her way to the basket to earn a trip to the free throw line. She would make 1-of-2 to get the T-birds on the board, but the Jackrabbits answered with a quick three from Jill Young to go up 14-1.
After falling behind early, the Thunderbirds rallied behind the offense of Mandelko, who racked up seven more points in the early going to pull the score to 19-15. Andrea Jones and Brenna Gates also provided a spark as together they chipped in seven to pull SUU within four halfway through the first period.
South Dakota State continued to shoot the ball well in the final moments of the period, stretching its lead to as many as 16 points. SUU then closed the half with back-to-back 3s from DJ Norman and Mandelko to cut the deficit to 10 as they went into the break.
Southern Utah lead the battle on the boards early on by a count of 17-15, but South Dakota State connected on five 3-pointers and scored 21 points off of turnovers to hold a 35-25 edge after the half. Senior center Jennie Sunnarborg provided the offense for the Jackrabbits to start the game, racking up 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Mandelko was a perfect 2-of-2 from behind the arc on her way to 13 first half points for SUU.
Sunnarborg added five more quick points to start the second to help SDSU open up a 42-27 lead. The T-birds then came right back with a 10-2 run to cut margin down to seven with the score at 44-37, but two straight from 3s from Jill Young helped push the Jackrabbits' lead back to 11.
The T-birds rallied once again as another Mandelko 3-pointer pulled SUU back within 10 halfway through the final period. The Thunderbirds eventually got within six as a pair of free throws by Carli Moreland made the score 50-44. South Dakota State took control down the stretch, however, holding Southern Utah to just six points in the final nine minutes on their way to a 66-50 final.
"We didn't execute well down the stretch and gave up some costly offensive rebounds," explained Payne. "But overall I was proud of the way we battled back. We didn't quit but fought hard and made it competitive."?
Jennie Sunnarborg led SDSU with 22 points while Jill Young went 5-of-10 from the 3-point line and added a pair of free throws to finish with 17 in the contest. Hailey Mandelko scored 21 for SUU and Andrea Jones came off the bench for 11.
With the loss, Southern Utah is now 0-5 in the Summit League and holds an overall mark of 4-12. South Dakota State improves its conference leading record to 5-1 on the season and is 10-7 on the year.
Southern Utah will take to the road again this week with stops at Western Illinois and IUPUI. The T-birds will tip things off against the Leathernecks this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and then square off against the Jaguars on Monday at 5 p.m.