Prior to the start of this season, and on the heels of a forgettable 2012 campaign, Southern Utah coach JR Payne predicted good things for her Thunderbirds in 2013.
"I am more excited about this team than I have ever been," said Payne, entering her fourth season at SUU. "This a hard-working group with great spirit that has been able to put in the work and enjoy it. They have bonded well and I think they are ready to have a great journey together this year."
Certainly, the Thunderbirds have been hints that they will finish better than the predicted 11th in their first Big Sky Conference campaign, which begins Thursday against North Dakota in Grand Forks.
Southern Utah concluded the 2012 season by losing 17 of its final 19 for a 6-23 record.
Led by sophomore guard Hailey Mandelko, who averages 13 points, the T-Birds have been a team of balance. Mandelko is SUU's lone player to average double figures, however eight Thunderbirds score at an average of 5.1 points or more. The team's rebounding stats show the same balance. Kimie Hawkins leads a group of five who average 4.1 or more rebounds a game.
On Monday, the Thunderbirds, now 5-4, outscored Houston Baptists by 24 points in the second half to claim a 79-58 victory, their third consecutive victory.
"We looked like we hadn't played in nine days," Payne said afterward. "But eventually we played the way we are capable of playing. When you show that you have type of basketball in you, you should just play like that all of the time."
Dodger Blue comes to U
Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager and famed storyteller Tommy Lasorda is this year's guest speaker at the annual dinner and fundraiser thrown by the University of Utah baseball program.
"An Evening with Tommy Lasorda" is scheduled for Feb. 11 at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel. The reception starts at 6 p.m. Tickets re $100 per person or $1,000 per table.
"We've been fortunate to have a variety of baseball greats for our season-opening banquet, and Tommy Lasorda is no exception," Utah coach Bill Kinneberg said. "He is well known for his engaging personality and it is an honor for our team and fans to have him attend."
In 20-year seasons as manager 63 overall as a player and coach Lasorda led the Dodgers to two World Championships, four N.L. pennants and eight division titles. Lasorda also managed the United States to its first-ever gold medal in baseball at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.