CEDAR CITY — The blows just keep on coming.
And the road only gets harder.
Playing its first game in a four-game road stretch, the Weber State women’s basketball squad fell to in-state rival Southern Utah 72-54 on Thursday night, the Wildcats’ 41st straight defeat dating back to last season.
Southern Utah — playing WSU for just the second time since joining the Big Sky Conference — hit seven 3-pointers, led by sophomore guard Hailey Mandelko, who knocked down four shots from behind the arc. Sofia Hepworth added two more from downtown and the Thunderbirds improved to 5-7 in Big Sky play and 11-11 overall.
The Wildcats fell to 0-13 in Big Sky action and 0-22 overall.
“I went in the locker room and said ‘I think it’s officially a rivalry,’” said Southern Utah coach JR Payne. “It’s fun to play an in-state school and just a tough, scrappy, young, really-talented team. I think Weber State’s going to be very good in the future.”
Weber State put up the first seven points of the game to jump out to an early advantage, but SUU came back to score 11 of the next 13 to rally for an 11-9 lead five minutes in. Hepworth capped the run with a basket and a foul to give Southern Utah its first lead of the night.
The two sides traded baskets through most of the first half as the lead changed hands three times to go with four times it was tied. The Thunderbirds created some space just past the halfway mark of the first period with a 5-0 run that put them up 25-18.
Both teams shot well in the opening period but the Thunderbirds picked up 15 points off WSU turnovers and doubled up the Wildcats in the paint, 20-10.
Regina Okoye led the visiting Wildcats with 12 points in the loss.
The Thunderbirds continued to build the margin in the second half as they held Weber State to just 25 total points in the period. SUU scored seven points at the line in the first eight minutes to stretch its lead into double figures and Hepworth added another 3 to up the advantage to 54-38 with just over eight minutes remaining.
Southern Utah kept up the pressure down the stretch as Mandelko connected from beyond the arc three more times in the final six minutes to help the T-Birds cruise to the finish line.
SUU held WSU to 17 of 45 shooting and just 18.2 percent on 3-point attempts.
Desiree Ramos added 10 points for WSU.